Greater Greater Washington

Parking


Harriet Tregoning is pro-choice (on transportation)

"I'm not anti-car," said DC planning director Harriet Tregoning last night at a meeting of the Federation of Citizens' Associations. "I'm pro-choice."


Photo by Jenn Farr on Flickr.

Tregoning and Washington Post reporter Jonathan O'Connell were speaking to the group about development and the zoning update. Many members of the audience were incredulous that any appreciable percentage of residents would choose to live without cars, even when O'Connell described many of his Petworth neighbors who do just that, or when Tregoning cited statistics from the Census.

"35% of DC households have no vehicle," Tregoning said. "Who are these people?" one woman shouted out.

Who are those people, by the way? The federation's members come from citizens' associations across the District, but those who spoke yesterday hailed from upper Northwest neighborhoods like Tenleytown, Glover Park, and Friendship Heights, as well as a few from Adams Morgan.

Everyone at the meeting was white (in a relic from a more segregated bygone era, predominantly black associations are part of a separate Federation of Civic Associations), and almost all belong to the baby boom generation or older.


The meeting. Tregoning and O'Connell are at the far right. Photo by the author.

The discussion primarily revolved around the chronic flashpoint, parking. The Office of Planning has been encouraging developers not to build more parking than their residents need, and provisions of the zoning update reduce or eliminate many parking minimum requirements, especially around transit.

Tregoning said that when she talks to developers, she often asks them what percentage of residents in their target market own cars. She's yet to have a conversation where the developer knew the answer, but she comes armed with these statistics. She doesn't want to forbid them from building parking, but wants to help them align their project with the actual demand.

O'Connell noted that many buildings along Georgia Avenue in his neighborhood now have little or no underground parking, while earlier buildings had a lot of parking. He speculated that the older buildings built more than necessary, and developers have learned what residents want. Tregoning added that, while the data is not public, she has spoken to several developers who acknowledge that some of their past projects built parking which now goes unused.

O'Connell also wondered about the O Street Market project, which DC is supporting with over $35 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and grant funds. O'Connell said that the last economic development project of this magnitude was DC USA, which ended up with a taxpayer-funded garage which goes largely empty. Will the same happen at O?

The Rhode Island Avenue Home Depot is atop a Metro station, but has an overly car-centric design that isn't what residents wish they had at the site. Since these projects spend many years going through approvals, O'Connell said, what the city needs at the start of the process can often be very different from conditions by the time it gets built.

Audience members, however, mainly wanted planning to anticipate more car-owning households and not really expect any car-free ones. Judy Chesser of the Tenleytown Neighbors Association criticized car2go. She said that the residential permit parking (RPP) system is supposed to "protect residents," but yet car2go cars are able to park on those blocks as well as at meters.

Tregoning noted that they pay high fees for these privileges, not to mention that car2go vehicles do serve the area's residents. Some, she said, do give up cars, either going car-free entirely or reducing the number of cars they own, which makes more room for everyone else and saves money.

Tregoning emphasized the issue of choice. She asked the audience members to raise their hands if they own vinyl records, and then if they own CDs. Members of younger generations, by contrast, rarely own physical media for their music. Instead, they buy songs a la carte on iTunes or, increasingly, subscribe to services which let them listen to music on demand without actually owning the song.

Car ownership is similar, she said. Many residents do not feel the need to own a vehicle which they use only infrequently and which constantly depreciates. Instead, Zipcar, car2go, taxis and other services let them have access to cars when they need them, and they walk, bike, and take transit for many trips where possible.

While this is less common for families with small children, Tregoning pointed out that only 20% of DC households have school-age children. It's very important to serve their needs as well, but the city has a large amount of single-family housing stock, while it had far fewer apartments and condos compared to market demand. More recent development is mainly catching up to the balance we need for the future.

Facing some hostile reactions from the audience to the idea that many people would go car-free, Tregoning asked rhetorically, "do you really want me to plan for a city where 100% of people own cars?" Peter Espenschied of Cleveland Park retorted, "that would be safe."

Another questioner talked about how Georgetown residents kept a Metro station out of their neighborhood (actually, an urban legend). Tenleytown's Chesser piped up to say, "Smart move, in retrospect."

Some participants had more nuanced views. One man, who I didn't identify, preceded a serious and non-confrontational question by saying, "I generally favor higher density." Denis James of the Kalorama Citizens' Association said the group is worried that Jim Graham's move to expand visitor passes to all of Ward 1 has granted about 3,000 7,000 new parking privileges in the neighborhood, and that could bring a lot of new cars.

Most agreed that they wish the Washington Post would cover this issue more thoroughly. While Greater Greater Washington, the Washington City Paper, and others have indeed been writing about this subject, I agree that it's important enough to warrant more attention from the paper of record (as is the Montgomery County zoning rewrite also underway).

Seeing the tweets on the topic, Post reporter Mike DeBonis stopped by the meeting to say that he is working on articles about this issue. Any stories will run after the election which currently occupies all of his and others' time.

To assuage any fears that he might hate cars, bikes, feet or any other conveyance, DeBonis noted that he owns a car and an RPP sticker, bikes to work most days, took the bus that day, rode the Red Line to the meeting, and planned to walk home. Channeling Gilbert and Sullivan, he concluded, "I am the very model of a modern multimodal individual."

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Good to hear the RI Ave station brought up. When they were putting in the traffic signal (not the one right on RI Ave, but after you turn in) my wife and I said it was a mistake on several different trips. It's simply a big waste of space and time, not to mention the maintenance costs. It would have made more sense to install a roundabout, for both drivers and pedestrians. As it is, there is far too much space for cars and it's very difficult to cross on foot from the plaza to the metro and new apartments.

by thump on Oct 24, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

DC population: 600K

Number of DC households: 249,805

car free: 87,00 car free households

zip car members: 55 or 60k?

by charlie on Oct 24, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

Are there statistics for the percentage of DC households that don't have a car going back over the past 20-30 years? Curious whether the percentage increased as the Metro was built out. Of course, there are demographic mix and household income shifts that affect the reasons for not owning a car.

by AlanF on Oct 24, 2012 11:35 am • linkreport

The essence is indeed that it's not car vs metro vs bus vs cab vs bike vs foot.

It's car & metro & bus & cab & bike & foot.

Since cars are well established, policy should reflect making place for the other modes.

by Jasper on Oct 24, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

AlanF,

I don't have the numbers with me, but I know the Census Bureau collects that figure.

by Eric Fidler on Oct 24, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

I get the sense that many of these activists simply haven't been to the parts of the city where much of the change and growth has taken place. While I doubt they ever will, a visit outside of their bubble would probably be very telling.

by William on Oct 24, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

As I said the other day, developers build parking because the majority of people demand it, either as an add on that they can rent or buy. To most, renting or buying in a building that didn't provide the option for parking, would be as distasteful as not having a laundry machine in the unit. It is one of the first things people look for.

Take Highland Park apartments whose front entrance is 75 feet from the columbia heights metro entrance. Ever been in their parking garage? Anecdotally, it was atleast 75% full on the Wednesday night I was in there and it is all tenant vehicles. They don't rent by the hour. One would think that the folks paying a hefty premium to live literally on top of the metro would be the first ones to go without vehicles, but it isn't the case.

Same goes for Kenyon SQ Condos across the street. They both built parking facilities and either bundled the cost in or sold the parking seperately and their parking garages are full. How does Harriet explain this? Shouldn't their garages be empty?

by Parking on Oct 24, 2012 11:53 am • linkreport

Way to just copy and paste from the last thread you posted that on.

Not to mention the fact that several people followed up with (also anecdotal) information that the lots for those buildings are NOT 75% full.

by MLD on Oct 24, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

"Shouldn't their garages be empty?"

only if you expect a group of people living by a metro to be 100% carfree.

If there are 50 spots for 100 households, and all spots are full, that would be 50% carfree. OTOH if it was 100 spots for 100 household and 50% are full, that would also be 50% car free. If its 50 spots for 100 households, and 50% are full, that would be 25% carfree.

We would expect buildings by metros to have more carfree people, but then we would expect that brand new buildings with relatively affluent people would have fewer. Those effects probably offset.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 12:01 pm • linkreport

@ AWalker: And there are people who only have one car in stead of two.

by Jasper on Oct 24, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

If you're only contribution to a discussion about choice of travel is that some people who like to bike or metro sometimes drive then that lets me know you don't have anything really meaningful to contribute.

Anyway, re: "who are these people!" comment, it amazes me how many people refuse to step outside of their completely anecdotal lives. It's the same when its a discussion about Voter ID and people can't believe that is how some people live.

When someone tells you how many households in the city have a car and its their job to know this number you should probably believe them.

by drumz on Oct 24, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

"AWalker: And there are people who only have one car in stead of two. "

yes, but presumably the folks arguing against Tregoning are for 1 spot per unit, not two spots per unit. I am assuming above ZERO people with two cars per unit - if there are any they would pull the parking requirements back up toward 1 spot per unit.

In suburban locations, or DC townhouse areas where 2 spots per unit are more likely to tbe standard, the discussion would be different and would be more focused on carlite people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

"If its 50 spots for 100 households, and 50% are full, that would be 25% carfree."

pardon - 25% with cars - 75% car free.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

And you're missing something there, Parking. How do you *know* that all those cars belong to residents? Because I guarantee that if you were in the Kenyon Square garage, one of the cars you were counting as belonging to a resident didn't, since my friend who lives there rents her space to a non-resident. She can't be the only one doing that. She's one of my really "good" car-free friends, who doesn't even have a license. Sure, that's still demand for a parking spot, but she's not even breaking even on the cost of the spot (which may have been less than the expense to build it) with what she gets in rent, and if given the same choice again, doesn't seem like she'd buy a spot. So the cost/expense/demand point is off. The spots cost exactly or less than what they can be sold for to build, the expense to purchase them exceeds the market value of them, and the whole thing's a symptom of government-supported oversupply. If the guy who rents her spot could no longer get a parking space below cost, he might be inclined to give up his car, too.

I'm not sure what your point is, charlie? The friend I mentioned above would be a car-free household who is not a Zipcar member. A number of the people in my neighborhood are car-free non-Zipcar members. And on the flip side I know car-lite households who belong to Zipcar. While most car-free folks do drive on occasion, we don't need to build as much parking for them as if they owned cars. One shared car serves numerous households, so while we should consider car sharing when determining an appropriate amount of parking, the ratio is not one car:one household (or even, I'd venture a guess, 1 car:2 households, which seems to be a required parking figure tossed around a lot).

As far as "who are these folks?" Why don't we show them? We're here, screaming electrons into the void. Why weren't we at the meeting? Blogs like this would do us all a service if they got the word out about upcoming events like this. We don't all have infinite amounts of time to sit around and be the person to say "no, I don't have a car, and yes, I am your neighbor, so I have as much right to use our streets as you," but having SOMEONE at most of these meetings would help. I used to go to my ANC and SMD meetings until they moved them to a non-transit-accessible location (and bus the seniors over...but you have to be 60 to ride that bus), but if there are other relevant meetings I can get to, I'd be happy to attend on occasion.

by Ms. D on Oct 24, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

Imagine you go on a game show and win a free car. Would you keep it? Even if you had no interest in buying a new car before going on the show? I suspect that many people would.

So now imagine you just moved into a new apartment right across the street from a Metro station, and you get a parking space for a low cost or included in rent. Would you use the space? Again, I suspect that many people would.

You can look at a parking garage in a residential building near a Metro station that's full and argue that the people who live there clearly "demanded" those spaces, or else the spaces wouldn't exist, right? But the reality is that many of them could have been indifferent, but after being handed the space, decided to use it, because why the hell not?

by Rob P on Oct 24, 2012 12:31 pm • linkreport

As someone who has run a major citizen’s association (Dupont Circle Cit Ass), has been car-free for 10 years, was probably the 1st Zipcar member in DC, and rides a bike all over the city, I do see citizens older than me coming around to the Alpert/Tregoning smart growth ways.

On the other hand, even while bicycle ridership is growing exponentially, I’m usually the only person who pedals up to meetings full of activists, reporters, and gov workers (Bill Rice, DeBonis, Tregoning, DePillis being exceptions and, yes, David Alpert usually walks). I recently chided a group of community leaders (who I thought would be forward-thinking) who spent the first 5 minutes of a meeting complaining that there was no parking available downtown at midday saying, “As community leaders you should realize that our government is trying to discourage you from driving downtown and you should have done everything you could have to avoid driving to a meeting downtown in midday - especially when the weather is beautiful.”)

by Rob Halligan on Oct 24, 2012 12:34 pm • linkreport

I live practically on top of a Metro station too and I'll never go without a car, ever. Metro doesn't go to one of the offices I work at, doesn't go to the Giant that's just too far to walk to, doesn't go to places I often find myself traveling to like Fairfax, Woodbridge, Timonium, and Harper's Ferry, and certainly doesn't go to Pittsburgh and Cleveland so I can visit family.

by Another Nick on Oct 24, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

"As far as "who are these folks?" Why don't we show them? We're here, screaming electrons into the void."

Would all agree that on this, Arlington County does a superior job - promoting not only the desirability, but the reality, of car free living?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

From that photo it looks like Harriet should've begun by asking about Victrola or player piano-ownership.

The reality is that there are a range of opinions even in the neighborhoods these civic associations represent. But too many of these groups are run by people who either aren't even aware that there are a variety of opinions, or aren't interested in listening to them. There is room for them in this conversation but only if they realize that they can't have it exactly the way they want.

by TM on Oct 24, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

@ AWalker:yes, but presumably the folks arguing against Tregoning are for 1 spot per unit, not two spots per unit.

I was just commenting that people should not only focus on car-free households. The goal should not be to be car free. The goal should be to have multiple modes available. And you can not just measure success by looking at car free people. It is success as well when a household gets rid of any car, regardless of how many are left.

@ Rob P:Imagine you go on a game show and win a free car. Would you keep it?

That depends on whether I can pay the tax on my won car.

Would you use the space? Again, I suspect that many people would.

And others would rent out their spot.

by Jasper on Oct 24, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport

That would require that the citizen associations are even interested in broadening membership and having a diversity of opinions. Most of them are not. Ergo the myopic perspective represented in meetings like this.

by Andrew on Oct 24, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

@Rob Halligan
As someone who has run a major citizen’s association (Dupont Circle Cit Ass), has been car-free for 10 years, was probably the 1st Zipcar member in DC, and rides a bike all over the city, I do see citizens older than me coming around to the Alpert/Tregoning smart growth ways.

On the other hand, even while bicycle ridership is growing exponentially, I’m usually the only person who pedals up to meetings full of activists, reporters, and gov workers (Bill Rice, DeBonis, Tregoning, DePillis being exceptions and, yes, David Alpert usually walks). I recently chided a group of community leaders (who I thought would be forward-thinking) who spent the first 5 minutes of a meeting complaining that there was no parking available downtown at midday saying, “As community leaders you should realize that our government is trying to discourage you from driving downtown and you should have done everything you could have to avoid driving to a meeting downtown in midday - especially when the weather is beautiful.”)

This is a great story. And I suspect the real problem for them wasn't "no parking available downtown at midday" but more likely "no free/very cheap street parking directly outside my destination."

by MLD on Oct 24, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

I would say that in general one of the biggest stumbling blocks to consensus in public policy is the general inability to understand how other people live. Or fail to understand the nuances.

by Kate W. on Oct 24, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

To really be in favor of choice, you would have to be advocating just as much for public transportation improvements (like light pushing rights) just as much as doing away with parking spaces. Not to do so is hypocritical. You have to get public transportation to a level where it only makes sense to do away with parking spaces. Some places it's there, many places it is not.

Anyone want to take bets on whether TM's comment stays? I bet it does.

by Jazzy on Oct 24, 2012 12:54 pm • linkreport

The most intriguing part of this post for me is that there are still two Civic Federations in DC - one historically white, one historically black. But at least there's "separate but equal" representation! In MoCo, most of our civic organizations (notably the Civic Fed and WeAreMoCo) look more like the Federation of Citizens' Associations. And in both cases, a vast majority of people representing all sorts of different views are excluded.

Anyway, I have a car and I enjoy driving but I hate driving to work. My ideal would be to live in a place where I'd only have to drive if I wanted to, i.e. for fun, and everything else could be reached on foot/bike/transit. I imagine a lot of people would say the same, given the choice. Unfortunately, where I live now (with my parents), a car is pretty much required for most trips, though I try to mix in walk/bike trips whenever possible.

by dan reed! on Oct 24, 2012 12:57 pm • linkreport

"I was just commenting that people should not only focus on car-free households. The goal should not be to be car free. The goal should be to have multiple modes available. And you can not just measure success by looking at car free people. It is success as well when a household gets rid of any car, regardless of how many are left."

yes, I suppose Ms Treggoning was discussing choice more broadly at the meeting. I was focused on the specifics of the number of people parking in buildings located adjacent to metro stations. I realize that was a narrow take on the agenda of the meeting.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

I copied it because the question is relevant. I asked it yesterday and got back a lot of handwringing. The question is just as relevant now.

Those buildings were built under existing "or old depending how you look at it" parking min regulations. It would be pretty easy to figure out the number that were there.

Rob P, your car analogy is highly flawed. The people who rent at Highland Park don't get "FREE" parking, they rent it, and pay premium pricing for it ($190/month last I knew 2 years ago). Someone didn't rent an apt, get a free spot with it and go "oh golly gee, I might as well used it", they sought the spot out and paid extra for it.

Same goes for Ms,D. You tried explaining away that spot in Kenyon Sq and ended up making my point for me.

Your friend didn't get that spot for free with the purchase of her condo, she, someone who didn't have a drivers license specificially paid extra for it. That she doesn't want it or use it now is completely immaterial. She knew (I suspect) when she bought the place that one day when she sold it, it would be easier to sell if it had a space with it.

If Harriet is so easily correct, then these two parking garages shouldn't exist, and certainly shouldn't be filled. Heck, they shouldn't have more than a few percent of their spaces filled at all, but they do, and they are filled by people who had to pay extra for them. Again I ask, how under her logic, can this possibly be when the buildings literally share foundations with the metro entrances, and are in a section of town with multiple overlapping public transportation options?

It seems to me that if one can't reasonably explain why these two buildings parking garages exist as they do, then there can be no expectation for these policies to get any traction for developments built further from metro access, or in areas of town without the multiple overlapping options.

by Parking on Oct 24, 2012 1:47 pm • linkreport

Parking,

I still don't see how the presence of parking facilities at a couple of buildings that see use is proof that the government should (still) mandate parking in (or attached to) every building.

by drumz on Oct 24, 2012 1:53 pm • linkreport

Civic associations require time and commitment. Your committment will be higher the longer you have been there. You time is likely to be more if you are retired. No wonder that these meetings have lots of older folks, and a lot less younger folks who are juggling jobs, kids, and everything else.

by SJE on Oct 24, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

Facing some hostile reactions from the audience to the idea that many people would go car-free, Tregoning asked rhetorically, "do you really want me to plan for a city where 100% of people own cars?" Peter Espenschied of Cleveland Park retorted, "that would be safe."

Oy vey.


Another questioner talked about how Georgetown residents kept a Metro station out of their neighborhood (actually, an urban legend). Tenleytown's Chesser piped up to say, "Smart move, in retrospect."

This is actually pretty illuminating. There are a lot of folks who live in DC neighborhoods that are essentially "suburban". Places like Tenleytown, AU Park, Chevy Chase, etc... They like it because it's an extremely suburban environment that's quite close to downtown. Problem is, because they're rich (and white) they've been setting development policy in DC for many many decades now.

And theirs is not a reasonable vision for the city at large.

by oboe on Oct 24, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

"It would be pretty easy to figure out the number that were there."

Then by all means go do it. Tell us the number of units, and the number of spaces. And the current free market price for the spaces. It would be interesting to see that there is one space per unit, and all are filled at a high price per unit.

That might suggest that these high income people do want to pay that premium to get a space. In which case of course those spaces will be provided without parking minimums.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

"O'Connell noted that many buildings along Georgia Avenue in his neighborhood now have little or no underground parking, while earlier buildings had a lot of parking. He speculated that the older buildings built more than necessary, and developers have learned what residents want. "

Parking - please explain why many new buildings have little or no parking - is the above incorrect? Is it possible that preferences have changed? If so, it would seem likely that those who DO prefer parking will select the buildings that provide it, and those who do not, will prefer other buildings.

I note at least one new building includes a bike repair space and direct access to a bike trail. I presume they add those amenities because someone wants them. Does that mean ALL buildings should be required to have them?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 2:08 pm • linkreport

"then there can be no expectation for these policies to get any traction for developments built further from metro access, or in areas of town without the multiple overlapping options"

which policies?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 2:10 pm • linkreport

You missed the most important part of the analysis, parking. The government mandated that X number of spots be built for the building. Northwestern estimates that an underground spot costs between $30 and 40K to build. If that's true (I have no reason to believe it's not), then the builder was then forced to sell those spots at or below the cost to build them, because the demand did not make them profitable. As such, the government's parking requirements incentivized my friend's purchase of a parking spot by forcing the builders to increase the supply such that they were sold below market rates.

Step 2: At the time, yes, she thought it was a good investment. Her opinion has changed. She thought she'd be able to rent it for enough to cover the extra cost. She cannot. In fact, it took her a long time to even find someone to rent it. She's also seeing other people having trouble selling their parking spots. And since they're separately deeded, if you sell your place and they don't want the spot, you're stuck with a parking spot in a building, maybe even a city, you no longer live in.

Step 3: The oversupply of parking is now incentivizing her renter to continue to own a car. Whether he INDIVIDUALLY would be willing to pay a full market rate is unknown, but it's clear that parking prices being below full market rates means that there is excess supply and price depression, and it's a fairly safe assumption that some individuals who currently own cars wouldn't be willing to pay the full market rate.

So, it's not as simple as "see, she thought it was a good investment which means we should continue to mandate it!" Others have pointed out that things change between the initiation and completion of a project, and things also change between the purchase and sale of a unit. Had she listened to me at the time, she would never have purchased the spot. Hindsight being what it is, my analysis at the time (that the spots being sold somewhere in the neighborhood of cost was indicative of lax demand) was right.

If you love supply and demand so much, then why are you saying the government should determine the appropriate levels of supply? Won't the market take care of that better than some blanket rule written 60 or so years ago?

by Ms. D on Oct 24, 2012 2:10 pm • linkreport

Facing some hostile reactions from the audience to the idea that many people would go car-free, Tregoning asked rhetorically, "do you really want me to plan for a city where 100% of people own cars?" Peter Espenschied of Cleveland Park retorted, "that would be safe."

Another questioner talked about how Georgetown residents kept a Metro station out of their neighborhood (actually, an urban legend). Tenleytown's Chesser piped up to say, "Smart move, in retrospect."

I don't know how you respond to these without using any sarcasm. Ms. Tregoning is a bigger person than I could have been.

by drumz on Oct 24, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

@ Parking I think you have read Herb's post on "induced demand." http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/16000/zoning-and-cars-cars-cars/
Parking spots create demand and don't force residents to make a choice to live car-free. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by fongfong on Oct 24, 2012 2:17 pm • linkreport

Awalkerinthecity,

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

Ms,D

The price of underground, or surface stacked parking is as variable as the location. I know if a developer who ended up spending nearly 60K a spot for an underground garage built in Chinatown 4 years ago.

Then again Hines and Archstone are paying just over 25K a spot for the spots being built now at CityCenter.

No one spends money they don't have to or that they aren't confident they will make their money back on. You have no idea what Kenyon Sq spent on those parking spots but I can promise you they didn't take an overall loss on them. Maybe they had to take a few thousand hit on each space, but they helped sell the building in record time (with again I add, all the spaces being sold as well, so it isn't like they were unwanted)

As for rental scenarios, say Highland Park spent 30K a spot to build their underground parking. At $200 a month, and without any inflation it would take 12.5 years of renting it to pay it off. While each spot won't be rented 100% of the time, that building will be there for 40-50 years and they will clearly make their money back on them, and more.

Secondarily, the parking allows them to attract tenants that would otherwise look elsewhere. It is an added benefit that allows them to maintain low vacancy rates, much like building in gyms and theaters into rental units. Most residents won't ever use those amenities but were more likely to rent there because of them. Parking is no different.

by Parking on Oct 24, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport

Again, this isn't about the very presence of parking. Its about why we should want the government to mandate it.

by drumz on Oct 24, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

@ Parking. Great points. Glad you are down with letting the market decide. Nobody is talking about parking maximums of zero here. I look forward to your support of eliminating parking minimums, or is that a completely different set of arguments?

by fongfong on Oct 24, 2012 2:36 pm • linkreport

1. I continually criticize HT on her "choice" argument, although it's a typical argument across the New Urbanism sphere. The real issue is optimality. Much of the city was designed to optimize walking, biking, and transit. Subsidizing cars is expensive of the city. Plus cars are space hogs and in many neighborhoods are stored in public space, which involves opportunity costs as well.

2. WRT Charlie's statistics, they are pretty telling. People say that the automobilists are getting screwed but since in DC walking + transit trips are close to 50% of work trips, and probably close to that for nonwork trips--it's higher in the core, and lower in the outer parts of the city--the argument should be that walking/transit/biking has been historically underserved, that automobilists have overbenefited from present and previous practices, and this is evening things up a bit.

3. In 2006 I wrote a blog entry about carsharing where I recanted my previous position that the carsharing companies should pay for their use of space. Yes, they are businesses, but they are serving _residents_ just residents who happen--in all likelihood--not to own a car.

The issue is should _car owners_ have more _right_ or really _privilege_ to use of road right of way as _car storage_ than _car users_? I argue no. Or at least, pay for the privilege--at least half of market rate, rather than $30/year.

So this is btw a way that DDOT f*ed DC residents who use Zipcar. The auction process gave more money to DDOT because it raised the fees paid by all carsharing firms for use of the space, but as a result, Zipcar raised its rates by an average of $2-$3/hour. That means that we Zipcar users lose out--DC gets more money sure, but we are paying a lot more for the use of the service, and a f* of a lot more for use of the space than is Judy Chesser.

4. I had a conversation yesterday with Mary Beatty who is running as a Republican for at-large Council. She was talking about the Republican basic idea of limited govt. and market forces. While we didn't discuss it, I was thinking, if the market functioned without significant hidden subsidies, for among other things, driving, I probably would mostly be fine with "the market."

The reality is that auto use is subsidized and that is taken for granted as normal by John Townsend and all the rest, and that when you look for a level playing field, a different argument than choice, the automobilists are demanding that they be privileged, that the playing field shouldn't be equal, and that they should be subsidized.

It is a war actually.

by Richard Layman on Oct 24, 2012 3:06 pm • linkreport

Who are these people?

We're the ones laughing all the way to the bank as our house near a Metro station consistently appreciates in value and we are able to save all of the money we might otherwise spend on car payments, car repairs, car insurance, gasoline, etc.

We're the ones who get arrive home from work with a smile on our face rather than rage at traffic or our inability to find a parking spot.

We're the ones who still wear the same size clothes we wore in our twenties because of the exercise we get by simply going about our daily routine.

We're the ones who know most of our neighbors because we see them as we walk (rather than zooming by in a steel and glass box) to and from the Metro, the grocery store, the cleaners, etc.

I appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to live and work in the walkable and transit accessible parts of the District and that even many people who do still feel they need a car.

But I feel fortunate to be one of "those people" that the rude woman at the meeting disdains or thinks do not exist. We exist and, despite your contempt, we are really happy! I'm not sure the same can be said of her...

by rg on Oct 24, 2012 3:09 pm • linkreport

I continually criticize HT on her "choice" argument, although it's a typical argument across the New Urbanism sphere. The real issue is optimality.

There's a difference between the "real issue" and "the issue that can be used as an effective argument in the political sphere."

Voters are not rational, and they do not come to decisions in a rational way.

by oboe on Oct 24, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

"You have no idea what Kenyon Sq spent on those parking spots but I can promise you they didn't take an overall loss on them. "

And yet other developers want to not be subject to the old parking minimum. Which either suggests some difference (location? target market?) or that Kenyon did lose money (or would under current conditions)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

hmm -- "these people" as sustainable transpo users is a lot better use of the term than has been traditional...

2. I haven't lost (much) weight from biking, although I do have a lot of muscle in my legs and likely, I am not as heavy as I would be without riding. The real test is if I live past the age of 54, the age at which both my father and brother died from heart disease.

3. But you make a great point about walking and knowing your neighbors and driving and not. I live in W4, which has amongst the highest rate of car ownership in the city--it has 2 Metro stations (Georgia Ave.-Petworth, Takoma) and 2 half stations maybe (Ft. Totten definitely, maybe you can count Friendship Heights sort of).

I live 0.8 miles to the station. Some people walk to the station from that distance, but not many. Of course, closer in people do, and I think it might even be that more Maryland people use the station than DC residents (I'd like to see research on the question). Anyway, I wonder if that's why we know fewer people in our area, because most drive.

I do lament the great windows of the Bene hat shop and the Unique Boutique a couple blocks away. They put a lot of time into their windows, but since most people drive, it usually goes for naught.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/8119982989/in/photostream

by Richard Layman on Oct 24, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

oboe -- I understand that. But that's why you need people like me around to push the argument further.

walkerinthecity -- sure Kenyon Sq. made money, or didn't lose any, by building the parking (it's also hard to get construction financing when your property doesn't have parking).

But likely there are considerable opportunity costs involved, and they could have spent more money building differently, constrained of course by the height limit.

by Richard Layman on Oct 24, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

"it's also hard to get construction financing when your property doesn't have parking'

what if it has parking, but less than one spot per unit, or whatever the DC minimum is?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

Richard,

Re: the fitness aspect. I basically walk a mile each day on my commute to and from the metro and bike about every other day. I think that's enough to keep me out of the gym and my weight under control. Saves me money and time on a gym membership at least and I can keep drinking beer.

I pass a gold's gym on my way to the metro and the parking lot is always full (and one of the biggest parking lots in the area) and I wonder how much one could save by simply biking, or running to the gym doing your weights and then going home.

tl;dr: better to promote cycling as easy exercise rather than a serious weight loss regimen.

by drumz on Oct 24, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

"It is a war actually."

it may be a war on something, but its not a war on cars.

I know there are traffic engineers who dispute it, but I like grids that appear to me to let me avoid traffic nightmares on arterials. And the driving is more pleasant. Id rather drive 15 mph on a DC back street, than sit in traffic on I395 for the privilege of driving at 40MPH (maybe) on the aesthetic nightmare of little river turnpike. And I'd much rather drive a mile to someplace very interesting, than have to drive 3 or 4 miles for errands.

Even leaving aside choice (and like MANY drivers, I ALSO use transit and bike) there are benefits of urbanism to at least SOME drivers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

and the choice rhetoric is not only easier to sell than "optimality" (just like its a lot easier to sell "clean energy" than to sell "optimal taxation of carbon as an externality") its a real factor - there is, IIUC, evidence that people DO value, and will pay for, choice of transport mode, even if they use the choice seldom, or not at all.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 3:56 pm • linkreport

Well, the point of a transportation plan is to optimize. That's the beauty of the Arlington County Master Transportation Plan. They lay out the goals and policies in the goals and policies element. And then each functional element (transit, parking and curbside management, etc.) is consistent with the goals and policies and internally consistent as well.

So when the Post and others criticize ArCo say on their opposition to HOT lanes, they ignore the fact that ArCo's position on HOT lanes (and other issues) is derived from and consistent with the goals and policies of their transportation plan.

But yes, it's hard when you're a planner to "tell the truth." E.g. I had fun when I was working at Balt. County and got emails about how trails spur crime and instead I recounted that trails have less crime that abutting residential and commercial districts, and that by far more cars and roads are elements of crime than bicycles.

But that probably didn't help me score points to get hired there after the grant ended...

Anyway, DC doesn't have a transpo plan really. Anyway/2, so why you can use the rhetoric on choice, the plan is supposed to focus on and effectuate optimality, unless of course it isn't focused on optimality (e.g., ArCo's plan says that they are to gain population with limited increase in overall traffic and that SOV trips are to decline) but on enabling automobility.

The problem in DC is that 5 of the 8 wards have high car ownership (and frankly, "need" for cars since high quality transit options are less available when compared to the core) which makes it hard for the Council to push the right kinds of decision making on these issues, and to expand and extend the conditions that support transit, walking, and biking as opposed to car-ownership based automobility.

At the hearing on the Central 14th st. plan on Monday, CM Wells asked a couple of the panelists about the use of car2go in the study area.

And I thought instead that DC should really do Whatcom County, Washington style TDM mode shift initiatives (Portland has done this too, the basic model was pioneered in Victoria State, Australia) around car sharing in the outer part of the city, in the areas with transit, where car sharing can reduce (but not eliminate) car ownership, and thereby reduce demand for public space based car storage and traffic more generally.

The Whatcom program is better than Arlington County's... which says a lot.

https://www.whatcomsmarttrips.org/

by Richard Layman on Oct 24, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

RL - I would be very surprised if ArlCo folks don't talk about choice in public meetings, especially in the context of the more traditionally auto focused parts of the county.

Adding non auto modes always adds choice, where they did not exist before. There is no place in Arlington where auto is not a choice (and in general I dont think ArlCo envisions trying to make it an unusable choice anywhere, not even in Rosslyn or Crystal City). So there is nothing AFAICT in ArlCo's optimization that conflicts with "we want to increase choice" Of course choice rhetoric isnt specific enough - do we want bike lanes everywhere? Bus service everywhere? Both? Where do we want rail instead of bus? Where do we want sharrows instead of bike lanes? Where cycle tracks? Where traffic calming? Where, if anywhere, increased auto capacity? Where is walking central, and where is it a small part of the package? "Choice" isnt a planning tool because its too vague.

But it seems to me a very legitimate (and not a dishonest) communications tool.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 24, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

One of the reasons that the DCUSA parking garage under the target is empty is because it was poorly planned. It's easy to get stuck in heavy congestion getting into the parking garage and getting out. Plus if you're parking there to enjoy Columbia Heights its awkward to have to enter a building to get to the parking garage instead of being able to walk directly into the parking garage via steps. Then on top of it you still have to pay. I use that Target as a last resort because parking in the garage is so aggravating.

by MiCoBa on Oct 24, 2012 5:20 pm • linkreport

"Many members of the audience were incredulous that any appreciable percentage of residents would choose to live without cars" - I'd just like to point out that for poor people, forgoing car ownership is not so much a "choice" as it is a necessity. I would guess that these same people would not understand why 5 young 20-somethings would share a group house with only one bathroom either, but it goes to show how different people are willing to make different trade-offs in order to make their budgets balance.

by grumpy on Oct 24, 2012 7:41 pm • linkreport

If DC ever wants do more than just whine about cars there are plenty of laws and regulations that could be passed.

by Tom Coumaris on Oct 24, 2012 8:00 pm • linkreport

David,

My actual comment was: With 2010 census data showing Adams Morgan's population at 16,435 and average household size in DC at 2.1, Councilmember Graham's recent legislation giving every household in Ward One a visitor's pass (and thus every household in Adams Morgan) exacerbates our problem. 16,435/2.1= 7,826 visitor passes!
Adams Morgan is densely populated for DC, and we have over 7,000 seats of ABC restaurant and tavern occupancy in the neighborhood. I know that everyone won't use their visitor passes at the same time, but adding around 7,000 potential parkers to the streets of Adams Morgan is not exactly a smart-growth initiative.
And Adams Morgan is still experiencing in-fill development, particularly in the Reed-Cooke section, where currently there are 5 projects, ranging in size from modest to very large (the old Italian Embassy location) either under construction, or with their permissions granted. In a neighborhood like Adams Morgan, which is quite walkable and not too far from 4 Metro stations, it's reasonable that the developers be required to construct some off-street parking.
Parking and car ownership is not a moral question - it's based on each person's needs and lifestyle.
Of course there should be adequate parking at a Home Depot with a Giant Food in the same development - it's kinda hard to bring those 4 x 8 sheets of plywood or 6 bags of groceries home on the Metro!
The City should cease the use of TIFs and property tax abatements as inducements to developers. Corporations and national retail chains WANT to be here, in the nation's capitol, and the pace of residential growth and development of new housing continues unabated.
But let's not build a city that doesn't allow for the aging in place of today's current bikers and walkers.

by Denis James on Oct 25, 2012 8:27 am • linkreport

Hi Denis,

I updated the post to say 7,000 instead of 3,000.

I agree completely with you and have been warning about the visitor pass program. I was trying to stay away from too much editorializing in this article, but I think you make very good points about the VPPs.

by David Alpert on Oct 25, 2012 8:59 am • linkreport

"Of course there should be adequate parking at a Home Depot with a Giant Food in the same development - it's kinda hard to bring those 4 x 8 sheets of plywood or 6 bags of groceries home on the Metro!"

I live in NoVa, and I've driven to our local home depot to buy a hand tool, to buy small electrical or furniture part items, or to buy a small plant. Certainly far more times than to buy anything really big. It could be that in the district, which has more small hardware stores I guess, Home Depot is used differently than it is out here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 25, 2012 9:14 am • linkreport

The VPP program is a helpful idea, but we would meet more goals if it were easier to get a temporary parking pass. We've discussed many alternatives here before, from some kind of online print it yourself system to a booklet of passes that each household gets to use throughout the course of a year.

by MLD on Oct 25, 2012 9:14 am • linkreport

Yes, it's hard for a lot of people to believe that someone would actually live without a car - - but this area makes it pretty easy to do so. I voluntarily donated my car 5 years ago, because I really only used my car on the weekends. I bike to work every day, and if weather makes it difficult to bike, then I take a bus and/or Metro. I am a lifetime Zipcar member and use it probably once a month. Being car-free and using public transportation is a freeing experience. You never have to worry about car-related expenses of gas, insurance, repairs, etc. You never have to worry about where are you going to park or scrutinizing parking signs (which can be very confusing/conflicting). You don't have to deal with any car traffic headaches.

One of my bikes is the Brompton, a folding bike, which Harriet Tregoning owns. I've seen her riding around the city in her suit, looking quite professional. It's great how she uses it in conjunction with Metro, to get to work and meetings. She sets a GREAT example! Keep up the good work! :)

by Charmaine on Oct 25, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

I thought the rate of car ownership was lower than 65%. Has anyone tracked the rate through the years? It's not possible that the rate has gone up, is it?

by Jazzy on Oct 25, 2012 11:14 am • linkreport

Denis is of course right that there should be *adequate* parking at a development that features stores that most people drive to. Most of the residents of the area do not object to having parking. We object to:

(1) the expanse of the parking. There's a side lot (where the day laborers hang out) that NEVER gets used, there are numerous spots in the middle of the plaza that NEVER get used. There's FAR more parking in that lot than necessary. So much, in fact, that they recently started operating a Penske truck rental business out of it and parts of the lot are frequently used to display large items like sheds.
(2) the orientation of the building to the surrounding community. If you live on the other side of the Home Depot from the Metro (as I and the thousands of other residents of Brentwood and Langdon do), that parking lot is your direct shot to the Metro. Except...it's SUPER dangerous and difficult to walk across. There is not ONE pedestrian amenity that allows someone on foot to cross from one side of the parking lot to the other without walking directly out into traffic at at least some point (I do not mean "cross the street" I mean walk, with the flow, into traffic, for at distance of at LEAST 10 feet or more). This problem is exacerbated by the stores themselves, who put planters, displays, carts, tents, signs, and other obstructions on what little patches of "safe" space for pedestrians exists. And yet further exacerbated by illegal parking, often by the store's own staff, that squeezes cars into too-small a space and forces the pedestrians out even further into this now reduced space. I'm honestly shocked people aren't hit there regularly. The buildings should face the existing roads, and a passageway for pedestrians should have been included (one could imagine a road down the middle, with sidewalks, with Home Depot on one side and Giant and the plaza on the other).
(3) the design of the buildings. They're both full-on suburban format. I have to cross the Home Depot's "pro zone" (literally sometimes yielding to forklifts!) to get across the lot. Simply moving that around the corner to the side of the store would make the store more friendly to those who have to walk past it. Same goes for the garden center...if it were around the side of the building, it would be easier to cross past the building. Giant could have skipped the little vestibule at the entrance and kept the sidewalk contiguous, the sidewalk from Giant to the rest of the plaza could be something OTHER than stairs so those with mobility issues could navigate it (though as it stands, since the stairs are blocked by their cart storage, it's not like ABLE-BODIED people can use the sidewalk either). Plus, elevating them the way they did...gee, thanks for creating dead zones all around you.
(4) the treatment of the community. This one mostly falls on Home Depot. They are the sorriest excuse for a "community member" one could ever encounter. When I have brought up MAJOR issues for those of us who live in the area, they have ACTIVELY MADE THEM WORSE (I can only assume that this is intentional). I don't have the energy to recount all of the tactics I've tried to get them to do something as simple as rearrange a display so that there's something resembling a safe place to walk, only to arrive the next day to find the display rearranged in such a way that it is actually MORE dangerous to walk around, but suffice it to say they're less-than-responsive to community concerns.

It's not that Home Depot and Giant are there, it's the specifics. And lest you think I'm being overly dramatic about NEEDING to walk through the lot, the alternatives are (1) pay to ride the bus around the block, which takes just about as long as walking, or (2) walk 5 blocks out of my way to get to the Metro. All because we were too short-sighted to stop for *one second* and say "so, are we sure we're accommodating the whole community with this *exact* plan?"

by Ms. D on Oct 25, 2012 11:37 am • linkreport

@Parking, I live in Kenyon Square Condos. From our board - 70% of our unit owners rent out their parking spaces to suburban drivers from Montgomery and PG counties who commute in, park and then metro to downtown. Rent for these spaces goes for $200 a month on average.

by Streeter on Oct 25, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport

@Ms D: I think nearly every agrees that the design of the Brentwood Giant/Home Depot sucks. I wish there was something that could be done about it. The issue is probably too big for ANC 5C; perhaps the place to start is Kenyan McDuffie.

by goldfish on Oct 25, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

goldfish, yeah, especially since the new boundaries haven't taken effect yet and everything is in limbo until Jan 1. I can't go to the ANC meetings since they moved them to the police station anyway (I mean, I *suppose* I could try to walk there, but, well, I'm not suicidal). While I'm hoping for some major changes between proposed new developments, some rumors that have been bouncing around about additional development goings-on, and McDuffie's interest in the industrial land in the ward, that's the long-term. In the short term, all I really really really really want is the stores to make a commitment to provide a safe space for pedestrians and be good community members (provide trash receptacles and clean litter off the property, assist in minimizing CRIMINAL activity (particularly drug use and gambling on their property), and remove graffiti promptly). It's my understanding that the asphalt company on W street has made a commitment to pedestrian safety, even with dump trucks going to and fro all day. I just don't see why it's so hard for retail stores to put their displays and accessories up in such a way that doesn't block pedestrian access and enforce parking (both of which I have asked the stores - at both the store and corporate level - for and gotten nowhere...as I said, they often make it worse if I complain). Those two things would, right away, make the situation MUCH safer and more pleasant, at the cost of...um...making their in-store officer go out and write some parking tickets? Or at least refrain from parking THEIR OWN CAR in the fire lane?

by Ms. D on Oct 25, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

Ms. Cheser,

I'm a car-less by choice Ward 3 resident over 50 years of age. It has not hindered my mobility to any great degree. I belong to ZipCar, Car2Go and Capital Bikeshare to supplement Metrorail, Metrobus and walking.

by Mr. Transit on Oct 25, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

Thanks, Streeter. While my friend isn't necessarily representative, I had a sneaking suspicion that much of that parking was being used by non-residents. If the developer is breaking even or even taking a small hit on LEGALLY MANDATED parking spots, they're going to make up the costs (they also have financing and other costs not accounted for in the base cost to produce the parking) in the price of the units, even if the purchaser/renter doesn't buy/rent a spot. That makes housing less affordable, while subsidizing non-residents to drive into the city and park for the day. If they had to park near their work, they'd likely pay closer to $300/month, and that may be the breaking point between driving and using transit. Not a fan of subsidizing driving on anyone's back, even if it *appears* to be more of a market-based situation.

by Ms. D on Oct 25, 2012 8:18 pm • linkreport

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