Thursday, January 6, 2011

Parks versus Parking

I don't really know what Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority does. I suppose I could read their website, but my cursory glance at their front page makes me think that they are primarily concerned with parking. The Chronicle shared this delightful xtranormal video that was shown at the beginning of the DDA's January 5th retreat. If you watch it you will learn, just like the rainbow teddy bear, that not only are parks and parking not the same thing, but that parks cost a lot, while parking is an important source of income for the city. The solution? Clearly more parking.

Do we really need more parking downtown? Do we need as much as we have right now? I feel like there are tons of off street parking options in downtown. There are definitely way too many surface lots that abruptly punctuate the landscape. Looking northeast from the intersection of William and Ashley, you see a surface lot that takes up an entire block to your left. In the distance, you see the gargantuan Ashley and Ann structure that spills from one block onto another.

I know downtown businesses depend on their customers having reasonably easy access to them. This often means easy parking. But doesn't it also seem like easy parking might contribute to or even encourage unsustainable practices like driving too much and living farther away from the city centers we frequent? I realize that this is not a black and white issue, but having a denser population in and near downtown could offset losses that may occur if parking becomes more difficult.


  1. A good question. One of the things that leaps out when looking at the DDA's 10-year plan is that they have embraced two contradictory goals: to bring people downtown without cars (minimize parking) - thus support of GetDowntown and other transit projects - and to increase parking revenues drastically. There was talk about parking customers and one member (Newcombe Clark) even talked at the last retreat about buying lots to sell more parking.

    This has been pushed on the DDA to some extent by the city's demand for parking revenue.

  2. Sustaining downtown business while providing disincentives to drive there is definitely a sticky issue.

  3. Not necessarily contradictory goals--they'll just find more and more ways to make more money from existing parking. The new parking payment stations replacing meters is step one--the system doesn't prevent you from paying even when you shouldn't. Parking is free after 6 and all day Sundays, but if you aren't from around here, and don't know that, the machine won't set you straight. Also, when you pay by machine, two people often end up paying for the same time at the same spot. You put in 30 minutes, but leave in 10. Then someone else parks there, puts in 30 minutes, etc., instead of finding a meter with time already on it.

  4. On the flipside, A2 isn't pricing their parking effectively. I never pay for street parking (because I'm usually dashing around, parking for no more than 15 minutes at a time) because, economically, it's more efficient for me to incur a $10 ticket approximately twice a year rather than pay $0.25 for every 12.5 minute stretch. They either need to increase fines or decrease the parking rate (unlikely) to disincentivize free riders like myself.