Dennis Lieb’s Neighborhood Parking District Proposal is Dead-On

I think Noel Jones is being too hard on Mike Fleck here, but I do want to promote this post because Dennis Lieb is totally on point with this Neighborhood Parking District proposal:

After everyone else was done talking, Lieb finally spoke up, and said, “This meeting is already long, so I’m going to try to keep this short. I’ve never heard the issue of parking come up at a council meeting, so I’ve never bothered to speak up on the issue, but I’m pretty sure that I know more about parking than just about anybody in this room, and I just want to say that there is an answer to all this that has been successful all over the country.” At that point, he lifted a hard-backed tome heavy enough to kill a small animal, and said, “This is The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup. It’s 605 pages and anyone who would like to borrow it is welcome to.

It basically it explains that a successful parking plan is one that always maintains 15% of its parking spots open. This ensures that customers of businesses in any particular area will always be able to find a spot. Parking is a product, that earns revenue, and it should be treated like a business. If you give the product away for free, it doesn’t work. People just park in the spots all day when it’s free, and residents and customers can’t find parking.” Lieb went on to explain the concept of the Neighborhood Parking District, “The meters should be charging at all times. People initially scream at that idea until they realize that it keeps spots open for their customers, and that the meters are making them money, and that all of that revenue is going directly back into their neighborhood parking district, to fix up their blocks in any way they want to–whether it be facade grants, sidewalk steaming and repair, planting trees, signage, etc.–whatever they decide as a neighborhood district to do.


If the residents have parking passes so they don’t have to pay the meters, and they’re in a neighborhood parking district, they’re less likely to get upset if there isn’t a spot open right in front of their house–because they know at least that that meter is making them money for their block. And if they wanted to use it to pay for something like the Ambassadors, they could.”

A key component of doing this is throwing out Easton’s minimum parking requirements. Consider this, from Ed Sieger:

The zoning board also granted Schy-Rhys Development a parking variance for a 92-seat jazz lounge on the lower level of the Bank Street Annex.

Schy-Rhys plans on creating a roughly 4,300-square-foot lounge that serves food and drinks separate from the first-floor catering business. Greg Schuyler, a partner in Schy-Rhys, said plans include two new entrances onto Bank Street, and he expects the lounge would be open four or five evenings a week.

City zoning code requires 33 off-street parking spaces, but Bank Street Annex, like nearly all Downtown restaurants, simply doesn’t have the space for parking, attorney Dan Cohen told the zoning board.

The building is about a half block from the city’s Pine Street parking deck and is busy at night, when space is available in the parking deck, Schuyler added.

And:

As for the burrito restaurant, Juan Martinez, co-owner of the State Cafe and Grill on South Fifth Street, plans a 30-seat burrito restaurant in a college-owned property that previously housed a clothing shop and Lafayette’s ROTC office.

City zoning code requires 10 off-street parking spaces, but no off-street spaces are proposed. Martinez said his business plan focuses heavily on pedestrian traffic in the College Hill neighborhood, specifically Lafayette students, who would be able to use their meal plans to eat there.

Coincidentally, I’m actually reading The High Cost of Free Parking right now (just came out in paperback!) and one of the key point Shoup makes early on is that there’s no rhyme or reason to the number of parking spaces cities require. Floor area, as it turns out, is a terrible proxy for parking demand, which is what most cities use. Figuring out parking minimums is a pseudoscience. Planners don’t actually know how to do this.

So it’s much better to throw these faulty requirements out and let market prices manage parking demand – no more and no less than people are willing to pay for. City council really needs to listen to Dennis on this one, he’s exactly right.

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