8. Make Parking Areas More Productive

The feature image diagram to the left shows a cursory investigation on the amount of available parking in South Bend’s central business district; otherwise known as the urban corridor.  If you’re looking for an intensive study on the downtown parking available in South Bend, check out the report completed in February 2016, by Rich and Associates. For the purposes of this idea exercise, I chose to focus on the area west of the river, east of William Street, south of Leeper Park and the Hospital, and north of the rail road tracks (though, I didn’t examine the neighborhood just east of 933).  One exception was that I also didn’t include parallel street parking because it’s not really legible at that scale.  Frighteningly, this also doesn’t include all impervious surface, just parking lots and parking garages.  This is scary because all the impervious surfaces impact our stormwater management efforts (roads, buildings, pavement).

From the Strong Town’s post on why cars pay cheaper rent than people: “Affordable housing. $15/year rent. Bring your own tent.”

An important note, is that not all of this free public parking.  Much of the parking is privately serving individual businesses downtown.  This creates several additional issues, which I’ll deal with in a future post on multi-purpose parking.  From a landuse perspective, it’s helpful to see everything together.  Another point of consideration from Chuck Marohne from Strong Towns:

Minimum parking requirements hinder the potential of strong towns by creating barriers for new local business start ups, and filling our cities with unproductive, empty parking spaces that don’t add value to our places. We need to put an end to minimum parking laws and allow our cities to become productive places again.”

Ok, now for a solutions.  A number of articles highlight the benefits of reducing city parking or at the very least, charging an appropriate amount for urban parking.  I recommend this one by Next City, this one by City Lab, or any of these by Strong Towns.

I suggest focusing on developing free “commuter lots” (or park and ride) on the periphery of downtown to collect motorists before they arrive downtown.  Connecting a timely, (you should be able to set your watch to it) mass transit system that simultaneously supports pedestrian travel is the next step.  Frequency of ride options should increase during peak hours.  If it’s easier, think of the city like a large college campus.  When I was at college, we’d park way out by the stadium and hitch a ride to campus on the shuttle, a service that ran every 10mins or so from one end of campus to the other.  It made walking not a big deal, even for commuters.  In the case of South Bend, just getting me from one end to the other in a short amount of time (less than the 15-20mins it takes me to walk from one end to the other) is a great start to encouraging ridership.  I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming Transpo bus stop conversations to see how this evolves in South Bend.

Minneapolis has made a very concerted effort to reduce vehicles downtown by doing something very similar.  Their transit system, a latticed effort of buses, lightrail, pedestrian trails, and bike lanes is focused on both convenience and necessity.  Read: they took out parking lots and made mass transit a priority. If we want to continue to encourage biking, more connected bike lanes, more protected bike lanes, and more bike parking it comes with giving a serious look at the landuse concerns brought about by surface parking.

Ok, go team!

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