more housing, less parking, part 2 central city SE

This is the second of the four quadrants of Sacramento central city, bounded by Capitol Ave on the north, Broadway on the south, 16th Street on the west, and Alhambra Blvd on the east.

Please see my previous post, more housing, less parking, for background information, and the southwest quadrant.

The graphic is below, but more useful will be the ArcGIS Online WebApp Sacramento parking & empty. Red is surface parking, orange is empty parcels.

The slideshow below shows many of the surface parking lots in this quadrant of the central city. It may include photos of parcels that contain a building but also have excess parking.

The next slideshow shows many of the empty lots in this quadrant of the central city.

It turns out that compiling the data, including parcels and photos, it quite time consuming, so the other two quadrants of the central city will be a while in coming, but I’ll be adding several posts about what I’ve learned, and the opportunities.

more housing, less parking

I have been gradually compiling data on two types of properties that could be developed into housing, or mixed use, removing unproductive uses such as surface parking and empty lots. The data at the moment is just the southwest portion of the Sacramento central city, bounded by Capitol Mall/Ave on the north, Broadway on the south, Sacramento River on the west, and 16th Street on the east.

I am not claiming high accuracy. The polygons are parcels from the Sacramento County parcel layer, selected using ArcGIS Imagery basemap, with consultations to Google Maps and Google Earth (the historical imagery allows selection of views without leaves on the trees, making it much easier to see what is on a parcel). I am sure I have missed some parcels, and included some that should not be. Nevertheless, I think the pattern is worth thinking about. Parcels that contain significant parking but also contain a building are not included, though obviously when counting parking, it is important. And, the map does not include street parking or structured parking. If those were included, the map would be a mass of red. There is a remarkable amount of structured parking (often called parking decks), both freestanding, and layered into other buildings.

I have not distinguished who owns these parcels. Probably about half the parking is owned by the state, and the rest by private parking companies. Of the empty parcels, it is less clear, but there is a mix of public (state and city) and private. It would take a great deal of time to determine ownership in order to code these differently. Maybe in the future, but I’m not sure this is a significant issue.

The graphic is below, but more useful will be the ArcGIS Online WebApp Sacramento parking & empty. This is my first experiment with presenting information through a WebApp map, but I realized that people would otherwise be ruining their eyes trying to parse out the polygons of surface parking and empty lots in the static map. Red is surface parking, orange is empty parcels.

So, why the data compilation. There are a significant number of empty parcels in the central city, all of which could be housing instead of empty. And every surface parking lot could be and should be developed into a more productive use. By productive, I mean something of direct use to humans instead of cars, and more productive of sales tax and property tax. Our property tax system values empty lots and parking lots are virtually zero, meaning they contribute little to our tax base needed to provide services. I’ll say more about this shortly.

The slideshow below shows many of the surface parking lots in the southwest quadrant of the central city. It may include photos of parcels that contain a building but also have excess parking.

The next slideshow shows many of the empty lots in the southwest quadrant of the central city.

Parking thoughts

Applicable to the City of Sacramento, but also to any urbanized area:

  • Any block on which parking capacity regularly fills on any day of the week and any time of day should charge parking fees.
  • The price of parking should be managed so as to always have at least one free space per block (the Shoup criteria)
  • Any block with mixed use should have one spot per block for bike racks and scooter parking, and one spot for ride-hailing and delivery use. These spots could be in the space daylighted by red curbs for crosswalk visibility.
  • The fees paid for by residents for parking permits should be sharply increased so that they more closely reflect the cost to the city of providing car storage space for car-owning residents.
  • The income from all new parking fee areas should go into a fund to be spent on the neighborhood that generated it, to enhance livability. It should not go into the general fund, and not be used to bond against. (again, the Shoup criteria)

Free and underpriced parking is one of the largest subsidies the city provides to car owners, but everyone who doesn’t own a car or has on-property parking pays for the subsidy. Which is not fair, and which encourages car ownership and car use.

I’m not suggested we get rid of on-street parking, it is a good use for some of the space we’ve set aside for it, but we do need to manage it more intentionally for the benefit of everyone and all modes of transportation, and charge for what it really costs.

Much more could be said, but that is enough for today.

Parking and transit, and ride sharing

Streetsblog posted today information from a City Observatory project that compares the cost of parking to the level of transit use, and the cost of parking to the number of ride-hailing (Uber, Lyft) users: What the Price of Parking Shows Us About Cities.

pking_v_transitSacramento (highlighted dot, which is otherwise hard to find):

Perhaps transit supporters should be specifically advocating for increased parking fees, though the position of Sacramento on the graphs, above the trend line, indicates that there are additional factors in Sacramento that suppress transit use.

Irrational thinking about parking

This week Sacramento News and Review’s Streetalk (not available online as far as I can tell) interviewed five people in midtown about parking meter hours. Facebook also has had a number of posts about parking in the central city. I am amazed that seemingly intelligent people have such fuzzy thinking about parking. Just as with driving, it engenders thoughts that have no grounding in reality, but if anything, parking is a stronger influence. Despite what many people think, free parking is not guaranteed in either the constitution or the bible. (Cheap gas is, though, look it up. – I’m joking.)

First, let me say that I don’t believe the parking changes are solely due to an effort to pay off the city indebtedness for the arena, but I also don’t deny that the arena has driven the pace of the changes and has city officials (elected and staff) drooling over the income. But let’s look rationally at some of the benefits.

People complain that later hours will reduce the amount of parking available. In fact, it is quite likely to have the opposite effect. The reason there is “no parking” in the central city is not because it is priced too high or the hours too long, but because it is priced too low and the hours too short. When people have free parking, whether during the day or the evening, they do several things: 1) they drive when they don’t need to (they often could walk, bicycle or use transit) because that choice is subsidized by free parking; 2) they stay longer in the parking spots because there is no cost of doing so; 3) they don’t carpool when they could; and 4) they don’t plan out trips so that they can maximize efficiency, rather they make trips on the spur of the moment. That drive to get coffee, for example.

The key factor that determines whether parking works for people is turnover. If there aren’t any parking spaces open, it is because metered spots are priced too low and free parking is given away for, well, free. Metered parking, if the pricing is either dynamic or increased to reflect demand, guarantees there will be open spots. Open spots mean that people won’t have to circle the block(s). I live at 16th & O, and I see a lot of drivers circling and circling, just looking for that one close spot. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an open spot, would you not rather be eating or drinking or listening to music or hanging out with friends, than circling the block? Or even better, if you must drive, park further away and get in some of your daily physical activity.

I can’t resist replying to each of the interviewees:

  • Christina: Why will it be a major inconvenience? Is that something you said because you’d heard other people say it?
  • Beth: “It would inhibit people using this area…” Why? Do people not go to work because they have to pay for parking? Why would they not do the things in the evening they want to do, and pay for parking? Most evening activities are not low budget, no matter what you are doing, and parking fees are not going to be a significant part of that. With a $25 dinner and $20 in drinks (or more), parking fees are just not that big a deal.
  • Vanessa: The reason it is so hard for you to find parking (if it really is) is that parking is underpriced and therefore overused. You can use the new SacPark app to extend your time, if you wish, or just park in a garage and walk to work. What a concept!
  • Kayla: If you can’t be away from your car, then perhaps you should move out. But, how about giving up your car and having a better life? “…my free spaces…”? I always wondered whose free spaces those are, and now I know, they belong to you. Not.
  • Tavares: Midtown is popular because of the culture and opportunity, not because of free parking. People will continue coming, and fortunately they will be able to find parking because there will be some metered spots open and they won’t have to circle the block, wasting time and gas.
  • Montha: “…coins in my pocket…? Are you telling me you don’t have a credit card? Most parking has been converted to single space smart meters that accept credit cards, and the kiosks also accept credit cards. Are you telling me you don’t have a smart phone? The SacPark app allows you to easily pay for your parking without a single coin in your pocket.

Yes, I’m pretty unsympathetic. I live car-free in midtown, and in part I live here because I can have a great life and be car-free. My main complaint about parking is that 10-20% of my rent goes to subsidizing free parking spots for other residents in the apartment complex. I’d have an even greater life if I had that as disposable income to enjoy midtown even more.

This issue has caused me to look into the census characteristic of the central city residents, and I’ll have more posts on that soon.

parking rights?

Tony Bizjak wrote in his Back-Seat Driver weekly column yesterday about parking issues in the central city, Backseat Driver: Sacramento’s central city residents want parking rights protected (SacBee 2015-08-17), as a follow-on to the community meeting held by Steve Hansen last week.

I don’t know whether Tony was responsible for the headline, but the headline does at least accurately reflect the view of some central city residents that they have a right to free parking, right in front of their house, and of some suburban commuters that they have a right to low cost parking right at their place of employment. There is no right to parking. You won’t find it in the constitution, federal, state or local law, nor in the bible, protestations to the contrary. There are always trade-offs in providing parking, including reduced livability, air pollution and carbon release, potentially lower walkability and bikeability, a less effective transit system, proliferation of that most ugly of urban forms – the parking garage and the surface parking lot, and most of all, encouragement to drive everywhere – a relict of the 1950s and 1970s that most “world class” cities are rapidly moving away from.

The article opens with “A downtown can’t prosper if its people can’t park their cars,” which has become a tag line for comments at the SacBee, Facebook and Twitter. Says who? The implication is that all other considerations are subservient to the demand for parking. A city’s businesses can’t prosper if customers can’t find parking reasonable close to the business they wish to frequent, for those customers that must or choose to drive. All day commuter parking and all day and night residential parking are in fact what threaten the prosperity of downtown, and it is our existing parking policies that make this so. A downtown can’t prosper if it is not walkable, bikeable and transit friendly, and in my opinion those are at least as important as drivability. It is not that parking need necessarily conflict with these other goals, but it does currently, and the restrictions, requirements and limitations being asked by some residents and some commuters will make it worse, much worse.

Continue reading “parking rights?”

Hansen’s community meeting on parking

timed parking and residential permit
timed parking and residential permit

On August 12, Steve Hansen sponsored a community meeting on parking issues. This is a report and reaction. The meeting was actually quite civil, not often the case when neighborhood people get involved in issues. There was clapping for things they liked but no booing and no angry outbursts.

Matt Eierman, parking manager for the City of Sacramento, presented on the current proposals and a bit about future ideas, what the city is calling “parking modernization.” He addressed concern that there would not be enough parking for the arena by showing a map of downtown parking spaces overlaid with walking distance at the Sleep Train Arena (ARCO), with sufficient parking available.

Eierman claimed that credit card fees at parking meters cannot legally be charged back to the credit card holder, however, San Francisco and many cities outside California are doing just that.

Eierman said dismissively that he hates the idea of “dynamic” parking fees, the idea that parking rates would change with location, time of day or day of week. He said “no wants to drive up to a meter and not know how much it is going to cost.” This is an absurd statement, and I’ll provide an analogy. Would a person say they are never going to buy apples at the store again because they don’t know ahead of time whether they are $0.89 or $1.19 this week? Of course not, people make decisions based on changing information, and parking is no different. With a smart phone, the person would know the fee even before pulling into the space.

The two things being proposed to go the the city council in the near future are:

  1. An increase in the parking rate from $1.25 per hour to $1.75 per hour, at all on-street metered parking in the central city. The city pointed out that fees have not increased in some time, though costs have gone up, and that an increase for on-street parking would shift longer term parking off the streets and to city parking garages and lots, some of which are very underutilized.
  2. A SPOTZone (Special Parking Over Time) pilot in Old Sacramento and one location in midtown that would allow people to pay for time beyond the set time limit, at a higher price. The pricing would discourage long term parking, causing more spaces to be open, but through payment mechanisms (smart meters and smart phone payment) would reduce the number of parking citations.

Continue reading “Hansen’s community meeting on parking”

parking fees

The Sacramento News & Review published this week Parking Nightmare: Major changes in Sacramento could mean higher prices, stiffer restrictions, following up on a earlier blog post  (https://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/pageburner/blogs, scroll down to July 15). SacBee also had an article on Friday, Downtown Sacramento parking rates likely to rise. Apart from the SN&R click-bait headline, the article provides more depth than anything else available at the moment, and provides me a chance to review parking fees and consequences. First, I would not for a moment counter the claim that an increase in parking charges is due at least in part to the city’s need to increase revenue to pay off arena bonds. But beyond that, it is possible to evaluate how parking should be priced.

My views on parking are all based on two concepts:

  • TheHighCostOfFreeParking_coverThere is no such thing as free parking. If parking is free, it is being subsidized by someone. The seminal thinking on this issue is The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup, as well as writings by others. The objective of managed parking pricing should be to ensure some free parking on every block so that people do not circle looking for parking, and that some of the parking fee income be returned to the neighborhood for improving the right-of-way, including sidewalks and pedestrian amenities.
  • On-street parking is not, as some people think, a bad thing. It slows traffic by generating “friction.” On street parking might be removed when there is clearly a higher use for road right-of-way, such as bike lanes or sidewalks, however, in almost all cases, removal of a travel lane is better for everyone than removal of on-street parking. I don’t support on-street parking because I want to see more space devoted to motor vehicles, but because of the traffic calming effect and because I think on-street parking creates a more livable environment than do parking garages, which I consider to be the lowest use (or mis-use) of urban land, only exceeded by off-street surface parking lots. Our streets would in fact be safer if there were more on-street parking on weekends and evenings, when most of the extremely dangerous  and egregious speeding occurs.

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River Cats: no such thing as free parking

RaleyFieldThe River Cats recently announced that they were going to make parking free and have expanded parking space for the upcoming season (SacBee). And they are raising ticket prices.

Free parking? There is no such thing as free parking. The car drivers are now receiving a subsidy to drive, at my expense. Have the River Cats not heard there is a trend away from free parking and towards motor vehicle drivers paying the true cost of that choice? This is not a good sign for livability in West Sacramento, or traffic management on both sides of the river, or greenhouse gas reduction. Just when West Sacramento seemed to be overtaking Sacramento in interest and progressive ideas comes this regressive idea.

Many game attendees have been walking across the Tower Bridge from Sacramento, some because they’ve parked in downtown or old Sacramento, and some walked from their homes or light rail. These people will now be paying for parking that they aren’t using. I won’t be subsidizing car drivers, and I won’t be attending.

The map above shows the areas I think are available for parking around Raley Field, though this needs to be field checked. Of course much of this area will eventually be developed with housing and other development, but for the time being there hardly seems any shortage of parking.

diagonal parking

I’ve suggested using up excess street width with diagonal parking. Below are two photos of 17th Street in midtown, one of the section between N and O, which has parallel parking, and a much-too-wide street width. The second is between O and P, which has diagonal parking on the west side. Since these are right next to where I live, I get a regular chance to observe the behavior of drivers on these two sections. On the parallel parking section, drivers are almost always moving above the speed limit, about 30 mph, particularly since most of them have come from an overly-wide section of 17th north of N Street. On the diagonal parking section, drivers are almost always moving at less that the speed limit, about 20 mph. A more subtle difference is that northbound drivers, from the diagonal parking section, seems more willing to yield to pedestrians at the unmarked crosswalks at the intersection of 17th and O streets, whereas southbound drivers, from the parallel parking section, seems to be less willing to yield. Narrowing streets with diagonal parking really does make a difference!

17th St parallel parking
17th Street parallel parking

17th Street diagonal parking
17th Street diagonal parking