Parking, Hidden in Plain Sight

LA vs Portland downtown parking strategies–which makes better use of valuable land?

Just as the compulsive naysayers rail against lane repurposings of streets, such as North Figueroa, that never see anywhere near the number of cars they were designed for, they also harp endlessly on the supposed “loss” of “vital parking spaces” in neighborhoods that have far more parking spots than cars.

Of course what they want are free parking spaces, or at worst below-market parking reates, with their addiction to cars subsidized by all who use a neighborhood. They may tout “user fees” for cyclists, but they want socialism for themselves and their bloated motorcars. Prices are higher in stores forced to provide “free” parking to these gasoline-powered welfare gluttons, even though in most neighborhood shopping areas, even in Los Angeles, even along York Boulevard [PDF, pg. 32], a majority of customers arrive on foot, on bikes, or by bus. And subsidized street parking, as well as in city-owned lots, means that taxes have to be higher for everyone to pay for the parking of a relative few. Cars, after all, take up a lot of room—far more than bicycles. And of course pedestrians and transit users don’t need any parking at all—yet non-drivers typically spend more at stores per month than drivers do.

The sad irony is that most parts of most US cities, including LA County’s towns, have shoveled so much money at parking, in response to the complaints of the lazy, that much of it goes unused. Just the other day I was in Santa Monica, which has tried hard to balance car use with bicycling, walking, and buses. The city, however, hosts numerous giant parking structures, massive, expensive edifices that displace businesses on nearly every business-district block, supplemented by nearly universal curbside parking at modest rates. I pedaled by two of these temples to government waste last Sunday, at 1PM on a sunny weekend shopping and beachgoing day, which you’d figure would be peak parking hours. The garages featured readouts that proclaimed how many unused parking spots were available in each…and one had 460 free spaces, while the other had “only” 316. Right downtown, where the plazas, stores, and sidewalks were crowded with shoppers.

There’s an excellent article on the People for Bikes site explaining how the city of Montrél surveyed parking prior to a bike lane build on a major street that would have removed oh-my-god 300 parking spots. They discovered that there was a total of 11,000 parking spacess available within 200 meters of that stretch of street.

In my own neighborhood, the Miracle Mile, a crowded, highly-developed stretch of LA’s busiest street, Wilshire Boulevard, there are numerous vast parking lots just out of sight behind streetside buildings, including some bargain pay lots operated by LADOT; there’s also what probably amounts an even bigger inventory of underground parking garages. Because these were built according to formulas from the 1960s and 1970s that were outdated before they were even written, they never fill up. There is a parking lot across from my apartment, which pays a little man to chase down and shoo away any drivers who leave their cars there but don’t immediately enter one of the chain stores the lot serves. I have never seen it full, at any time of the day or evening, in the twelves years I’ve lived here. The parking lot of the wig store across the street from it—also zealously guarded—has likewise never once filled up.

What we need is shared parking to go along with bikeshare and car sharing programs, something even Texas favors (at least in Austin).

But what we really need is to stop wasting expensive resources that rabid drivers cling to with a pathetic desperation even though they don’t use them—excess lanes, excess parking. This land would be better for all of us put to use serving the cyclists, walkers, and bus and train riders who are the true foundations of prosperity and community in our neighborhoods.

Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

One Comment

  1. Its Me
    Posted May 2, 2014 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    All you need to do is have someone figure out who to mount their walker or wheelchair to there two wheel bicycle and problem solve. The dream or nightmare is going to someday come when the middle east get cough up in a major war and gas will become more precious than gold.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Pigeon asks which approach is a more efficient use of space — Downtown LA’s massive parking lots or Portland’s […]

  2. […] The Zany Life of Los Angeles Parking Lots (Flying Pigeon) […]

  • What's Up?

    We're closed!
    But the blog posts keep on comin'