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 […]

Tomorrow (Monday) an open house / community meeting will be held on the Sacramento Grid 2.0 project which aims to improve transportation in the downtown/midtown area of Sacramento.

I attended the stakeholder meeting October 20, and had input leading up and as a result of that meeting, but then forgot to post. Thank you, Ken Petruzzelli for reminding me to post.

The stakeholder meeting was all about the maps of each component (pedestrian, bicycling, transit, and others), gathering feedback about what works and what doesn’t. Of course with physical maps you can’t overlay different layers to see what the correlation is, but the facilitator at my table did a good job of relating the layers. The maps have not been made available to the public yet, and what you see on Monday could differ from those shown at the stakeholder meeting.

Significant issues in my group (there were six groups) were: whether bike lanes on both sides of one-way streets made sense, with the consensus being that they were not needed except in special circumstances of heavy bicyclist traffic turning left; whether the two-way cycle-track (separated bikeway) on N Street between 3rd and 15th would work well at intersections in the western part; and that nothing in the plan seemed to address a reduction of signals and stop signs throughout the grid that would improve transportation flow and actually reduce speeding.

The map approach at the stakeholder meeting left out that which isn’t spatial – policy. I think policy to support the transformation is at least as important as which streets are changed. What follows is a list of policy issues that I think must be addressed in the plan.

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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.

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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.

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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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I live within the influence/taxation zone for the proposed Sacramento Streetcar, Sacramento Measure B, so I received a voter information pamphlet, and presumably will receive a ballot within a few days. Let me say right up front that I am voting yes. I support the streetcar for its economic and transportation benefits. However, I’d like to address some of the anti arguments.

YesOnB

No on Measure B

The pro side is well represented at http://gosacstreetcar.com, and the other websites linked from there. I have not found a website for the anti side, but their arguments are in the information packet and on the sign above.

Here are the anti arguments, from the pamphlet, with my comments in green:

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The 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 […]