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Posts from the "Parking" Category

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Titans of Click-Bait: The Park Slope Food Co-op Meets the “War on Cars”

co-op_meets_waroncars

In a rational world, the Park Slope Food Co-op opposing the conversion of an enormous garage into car-free mixed-use development would be as likely as Halliburton sponsoring every bike-share system in the country.

We don’t live in a rational world.

Everyone’s favorite symbol of eco-conscious Brooklyn (disclosure: my wife and I are card-carrying Co-op members — love the cheap organic produce!), has published what can only be described as a confused screed by local resident Jon Derow, arguing against turning a nearby 230-car garage into a car-free, residential-plus-retail development. The piece ran yesterday in the Co-op’s in-house newspaper, The Linewaiter’s Gazette.

foodcooptweet

The Food Co-op Twitter account posted this call to arms yesterday before deleting the tweet.

Now, the Co-op itself hasn’t taken an official position on the project, and it’s completely unremarkable for the Gazette to print a ludicrous opinion by one of the Co-op’s 16,000 members. But this particular publication decision is unusual because the piece comes with a preface from Co-op co-founder and General Manager Joe Holtz implicitly endorsing Derow’s perspective and urging members to attend an upcoming Community Board 6 meeting where the project will be discussed:

The International Principles of Cooperation call for cooperatives to have “Concern for Community” and for cooperatives to “work for the sustainable development of their communities.” In addition, our Mission Statement calls for us to be a responsible neighbor. In the coming weeks the General Coordinators will be discussing what our Coop’s response might be to the issue our neighbor Jon Derow has alerted us to. Please read Jon’s letter below, printed here with his permission, and please consider attending the Community Board 6 Land Use Committee meeting. —Joe Holtz, General Coordinator/General Manager

How might the transition from car storage to human housing affect the “sustainable development” of the Co-op’s community? Well, Derow predicts that turning the garage into 28 apartments and 7,000 square feet of retail will cause more drivers to circle for parking and lead to new headaches with double-parked delivery trucks. Because the garage houses 13 Zipcars, which have been shown to help curb car ownership, Derow says the conversion signals the impending arrival of “195 additional privately owned cars on our streets.”

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There Is Now Scientific Evidence That Parking Makes People Crazy

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. Fifth in a series.

All this week, we’ve been unpacking the nuances of the first major study of protected bike lanes in the United States. Today, we’re wrapping things up by taking a moment for perhaps the most amusing finding in the 179-page report.

Even when a protected bike lane project creates on-street parking spaces where none existed before, 30 percent of nearby residents think the project made parking worse.

The project in question was Multnomah Street in Portland, where the city removed one travel lane in each direction in order to add buffers for the bike lanes and, at some midblock locations, 21 new parking spaces. Of 492 nearby residents who returned surveys about the project, 30 percent said that the changes had made it harder to park on the street.

At projects that actually removed parking spaces in order to add protected bike lanes, 49 percent of residents said they made it harder to park.

Could it be that when people who oppose bike projects complain about the loss of on-street parking, this issue is often not actually their primary concern?

As scientists sometimes say, the answer to this question is left as an exercise for the reader.

You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

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How a DOT Parking Rule Change Made NYC Streets Less Safe

Photo: Brad Aaron

Prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, in 2009 DOT made it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks, satiating demand for free on-street parking once and for all. Photo: Brad Aaron

I violated a traffic rule on the day I moved to New York City.

I parked a minivan, rented for the move, in this spot on Seaman Avenue. I locked up the van and was headed to my apartment when a passerby informed me that I would get ticketed, if not towed, if I left it there. I didn’t notice the pedestrian ramp, which leads to Payson Avenue across the street, and I’d blocked the crossing.

As noted recently on Urban Residue, in 2009 DOT adopted a rule change that allows drivers to park at T intersections. The change was prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, who had introduced a bill to make it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks across the city.

According to a Brooklyn Eagle report, Gentile wanted “to open up more parking spaces” — and, of course, keep pedestrians from putting themselves in harm’s way.

Sloped curb cuts where vehicles are now permitted to park, Gentile explained, are “unfit for safe pedestrian crossing” because they there are no traffic signals or stop signs to slow down oncoming traffic. And there are no crosswalk lines marking where pedestrians should cross, he added.

You’ll recall that in the days before Vision Zero, as far as transportation policy was concerned, the City Council was focused on little else besides making it easier to park. With Speaker Christine Quinn and transpo committee chairs John Liu and Jimmy Vacca trying to score points by addressing one car owner gripe after another, Gentile’s bill might have passed even if DOT hadn’t beaten him to the punch.

We don’t know how many parking spaces were created by this rule change, but one thing’s for sure: The headaches for NYC car owners aren’t going away as long as curbside parking is totally free.

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Parking Craters: Scourge of American Downtowns

Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt popularized the term ”parking crater,” and she explains it simply: A parking crater is “a depression in the middle of an urban area formed by the absence of buildings.”

Different types of “meteors” left behind parking craters in the 20th Century — sprawl subsidies, the erosion of manufacturing, highway building. Whatever the cause, parking craters absolutely destroy sections of downtowns and make the environment more inhospitable and unattractive for people. In these areas, there is virtually no street life. In warm weather the asphalt makes the air more oppressive. It’s hell on earth. It’s a parking crater.

In this Streetfilm we talk to advocates in Cleveland, Dallas, Hartford, and Houston about the parking craters in their downtowns – several of which have been contenders in Streetsblog’s annual Parking Madness tournament – and why these cities have such bad craters.

A final note: If this Streetfilm is well received, we intend to do a follow-up film looking at the flip side – cities that have undone their parking craters by adopting better policy.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Path, Same Old Illegal Parking

NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan's unit, overseeing illegally-parked minivans putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk. Photo: Robert Wright

NYPD Traffic officers had a great view of illegally-parked minivans last night in South Williamsburg. Photo: Robert Wright/Flickr

Well, that didn’t take long.

The paint is barely dry on the new two-way bike path on Kent Avenue in South Williamsburg, and drivers are using it as car storage for minivans. Again.

Robert Wright snapped a photo of cars blocking the bike lanes and sidewalk in full view of NYPD Traffic officers. “What’s the point of putting in a new bike lane if the police are essentially going to supervise its obstruction?” Wright asked in an email.

The bikeway should eventually include flexible posts, supposedly to keep cars out, before implementation wraps up. But without a more substantial barrier — and the revocation of consent from New York’s Finest – illegal and dangerous parking in the path of cyclists and pedestrians will probably continue.

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Weisbrod and Kimball Tie Their Own Hands on Parking Reform

Reducing the amount of parking in new development promises to make housing more affordable and curb traffic congestion, but it hasn’t gained much traction in Bill de Blasio’s first months at City Hall, despite the mayor’s ambitious promises to ease the housing crunch. Today, two top city officials explained why, unlike their counterparts in more car-dependent cities, New York’s leaders are suggesting only the meekest changes to off-street parking policy.

City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and EDC President Kyle Kimball. Photos: DCP and EDC

City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and EDC President Kyle Kimball. Photos: DCP and EDC

The mayor’s housing plan recommends lower parking requirements for affordable housing near transit, senior housing, and commercial development that also includes residential units. At a Municipal Art Society forum this morning, Planning Director Carl Weisbrod highlighted these reforms as one of the ways the mayor’s housing plan aims to reduce the cost of construction — but only in places where car ownership is very low.

“Other areas have to be examined more carefully,” Weisbrod said after the event. “What we’re looking at is how we can appropriately reduce the cost of construction while not having a significant — or any — impact on the quality of life in neighborhoods.”

This outlook matches the philosophy of DCP’s nascent parking plan for “inner ring” neighborhoods, which lists “maintaining an adequate supply of residential parking for people who choose to own a vehicle” among its ”quality of life” goals. The result: DCP tries to tailor the city’s parking regulations to local car ownership rates, rather than using parking policy as a tool to make housing more affordable and reduce traffic.

DCP isn’t the only place where the tail wags the parking policy dog. If anything, things are worse at the Economic Development Corporation.

EDC President Kyle Kimball said he follows Streetsblog and that while he supports our policy angle, he takes issue with how we’ve reported about EDC projects. “[EDC] never had a policy of incentivizing parking as an economic development strategy,” he said. “Actually, at the end of the day it ends up costing the city. Developers don’t want to build parking, either.”

Yet EDC’s projects often include massive amounts of parking. At Yankee Stadium, EDC arranged public financing for 9,000 mostly-empty parking spaces whose operator defaulted on tax-exempt bonds. “The Bronx parking situation was one where they put in the right amount of parking at the time, given what they thought and what the Yankees were willing to pay for,” Kimball said of the subsidized project.

To hear Kimball tell it, the parking was done in by an over-performing train station. “There has turned out to be more commuting from that Metro-North station than the EIS anticipated,” he said. “So do I think it was a mistake to build the parking? No. Do I think the EIS could have been done differently? Yes.”

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Eyes on the Street: Sidewalks for Pedestrians at the 78th Precinct

Photo: Wayne Bailey

This sidewalk used to be a parking lot for police. Photo: Wayne Bailey

Props to the 78th Precinct and commanding officer Michael Ameri for this one. Reader Wayne Bailey sends photos showing that the 78th is starting to get the sidewalk parking situation under control near the precinct house. Previously this block of Sixth Avenue was occupied by officers’ personal vehicles:

Image: Google Maps

The old situation. Image: Google Maps

It might seem like a small thing, but this is a big deal for walking conditions near the 78th, which is right next to a subway station and retail blocks on Sixth Avenue, Bergen Street, and Flatbush Avenue.

Here’s what the sidewalk right in front of the precinct used to look like, with “combat parking” — vehicles perpendicular to the street, backed over the curb:

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De Blasio Housing Plan Meekly Suggests Parking Reform

Parking policy is one area where the de Blasio housing plan doesn’t go all out to achieve greater affordability. Photo: Office of the Mayor

There’s a deep connection between parking policy and housing affordability. The more space New York devotes to car storage, the less space is available to house people. And yet, 50 year old laws mandating the construction of parking in new residential development persist in most of the city, driving up construction costs and hampering the supply of housing.

The housing plan released by the de Blasio administration Tuesday could have announced one simple but major step to align parking policy with the city’s affordability goals: the end of parking minimums. Instead, the plan is strangely passive about parking reform, even though it plainly states that parking mandates contribute to the high cost of housing in the city.

Aiming to add 80,000 subsidized units and 100,000 market rate units to the city’s housing supply in 10 years, de Blasio has laid out more ambitious housing targets than Michael Bloomberg did before him — though not by much. An across-the-board elimination of parking mandates is the kind of measure you’d want to see from an administration that has basically pledged to use every lever at its disposal to keep rent increases in check. It would lower the cost of construction, and it could be used as a tool to extract more subsidized housing units from developers when they build new projects.

But the plan released Tuesday only says City Hall will “re-examine parking requirements.” And the specific parking minimums the plan puts in play won’t touch all development.

The good news is that the plan calls for housing development to be coordinated with transit and street safety improvements, and it does put parking reforms on the table in three respects. It proposes lower parking mandates in subsidized housing near transit, in commercial development that can also support housing, and in housing for seniors.

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Tulsa’s First Open Streets Event Reimagines Notorious Parking Crater

Photo: Zach Stoycoff, Tulsa Chamber of Commerce

Tulsa, Oklahoma, held its first open streets event over the weekend. Photos: Zach Stoycoff, Tulsa Chamber of Commerce

Typically, no one goes to the southern end of downtown Tulsa to socialize. This part of town has been so overrun with parking lots that Streetsblog readers crowned it the worst “parking crater” in the country in our first Parking Madness competition last year.

But last Sunday, thousands of people gathered smack in the middle of all that parking for an event called “Street Cred,” with the aim of transforming the area. Lifeless parking lots were remade as active spaces: an outdoor movie theater, a food truck court, and a disk golf course.

About 2,500 people biked and walked through an 18-block area during the event. It was the city’s first open streets event, organized by Tulsa’s Young Professionals group, which is affiliated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Young Professionals Executive Director Shagah Zakerion said a young couple who opened a coffee shop inspired her group to hold the event in this location. The couple mentioned Streetsblog’s Golden Crater award.

“We looked at that award as a wakeup call,” said Zakerion. ”For Oklahoma it’s kind of a new concept that streets are made for people. We really need to develop these areas for people and not just cars.”

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Atlantic Yards Could Become Much Less Car-Centric

Off-street parking for the Atlantic Yards project, which sits near one of the world’s great confluences of transit lines, was once projected to include space for as many as 3,670 cars. Now the number of parking spots could get chopped down to 2,876 or, in one scenario, a significantly less car-centric 1,200, according to a new review prepared for the state body overseeing the development.

Fewer parking spaces at Atlantic Yards means less traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Photo: Chris Hamby/Flickr

Fewer parking spaces at Atlantic Yards means less traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Photo: Chris Hamby/Flickr

The new environmental study, first covered by Atlantic Yards Report, is being prepared after a court ordered the state agency, Empire State Development, to examine the impacts of the project’s delayed construction timeline. The full Atlantic Yards proposal calls for approximately 6,430 residential units, about 180 hotel rooms, and nearly 600,000 square feet of retail and commercial space by 2035.

The study by consultants AKRF and Philip Habib & Associates offers two parking estimates. The first would entail 2,896 spaces in five garages. The second, labeled the “reduced parking alternative,” would create 1,200 spaces in three garages. Both numbers are significantly lower than the 3,670 spaces proposed in the project’s original environmental impact statement from 2006.

With less parking, the finished project would generate less traffic. There would be fewer curb cuts for garages, creating a safer, more cohesive pedestrian environment. Another potential benefit: Reducing the amount of parking could make the project easier to finance and lead to quicker housing construction.

Why the change? One factor is that the city’s environmental review guidelines are different than they were eight years ago. The guidelines now anticipate that car trips to the commercial uses at the site will increase at a slower pace than previously assumed, which accounts in large part for the drop from 3,670 spaces to 2,896.

To arrive at the option with 1,200 spaces, the report looks west, to recent parking reforms in Downtown Brooklyn. Despite the area’s rock-bottom car ownership rates, developers there were required to overbuild off-street parking. Facing a glut, the city halved residential parking requirements in 2012.

So instead of blindly using the city’s decades-old outer-borough parking requirements, the document offers a “reduced parking alternative” that applies the Downtown Brooklyn parking ratios to the Atlantic Yards project.

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