Greater Greater Washington

Top 6 reasons a parking garage near 14th and U is a bad idea

Some are pushing for a municipal parking garage on S Street, NW near 14th Street. To break even, such a garage would need to charge $3.51 to $4.33 per hour. What if it didn't have to break even? Should taxpayers subsidize a parking garage here?


Photo by Michael Kappel on Flickr.

Many cities do subsidize parking, often heavily. They often believe, rightly or wrongly, that unless public money contributes to making it easy for people in cars to drive and park in the area cheaply, then businesses won't thrive.

But a publicly-subsdized parking facility is not the answer for the 14th and U corridors. Here are the top 6 reasons this is not the right solution to Logan Circle's and U Street parking.

1. The area is doing great without it.

A presentation touting the garage proposal says that "Cultural and retail uses have led to the vibrant, walkable neighborhood we enjoy. However they also rely on a significant number of visitors to succeed." Does this argument really hold water for the Logan Circle and U Street area?

In his column supporting the concept, Roger Lewis writes that "the neighborhood around 14th and P hums with activity around the clock." In fact, restaurants on 14th Street are mostly full night after night, and the most popular ones have an hours-long wait or a weeks-long line for reservations.

It certainly seems like there is no shortage of people going to the businesses on the 14th and U Street corridors. That's not to say that some people couldn't benefit from adding even more subsidized parking beyond the existing free spaces on residential streets, but it probably wouldn't affect businesses' health or tax revenue for the neighborhood.

Some, like people with disabilities, have a particular claim to need help getting to an area, which is why DC has rightly proposed dedicating some meters for disability parking. For a lot of other folks, it seems this would just be a subsidy to make it cheaper to get to an area that doesn't really need it, and which they can still drive to, for a cost.

2. It won't solve residential parking frustration.

As we discussed in the last part, people will often bypass a pay garage to park on the street when street parking is free. Today, people can park for free on one side of every residential street near 14th and U during evenings and weekends.

So long as that is true, people are going to circle for neighborhood parking. Besides, for almost all destinations along 14th and U, nearby residential blocks are much closer than this garage would be. The bottom line is that adding supply is not going to make local streets clear and easy to park on. The moment they are easy to park on, people will park on them for free!

3. It might not even fill up.

In Columbia Heights, the large DC USA garage continues to go largely empty, even though it costs just $1.50 an hour. Parking remains scarce on many nearby blocks, for exactly the reason above: the street parking is far easier to find and more convenient.

DC would run a serious risk of building an expensive garage and then finding it largely unused.

4. It will have significant downsides to the neighborhood.

A garage would draw a lot more traffic to the area. That traffic would be particularly bad on S Street, but also bad in the rest of the neighborhood. If people didn't park on neighborhood streets, then a lot of traffic from people circling would go away, but there's every reason to believe that this garage wouldn't stop on-street parking.

5. There are much better ways to deal with parking.

It would be technically simple to require that anyone from outside the neighborhood parking here use the pay-by-phone system (or an alternative for those who can't use it) to pay a rate for parking that equalizes supply and demand.

Plus, on-street parking has another advantage: you can park a block or two from your destination, instead of always having to park at 13th and S.

Lewis mentions a shuttle from the parking garage, but there already is a Circulator from the Metro at McPherson Square and from the corner of 14th and U, a block from the U Street station. For those who can't walk from the Metro, the garage might be a little closer, but it would save only at most 2 blocks.

Karina Ricks, of Nelson\Nygaard, said that another approach some cities like Asheville have taken is to set up shared valet parking systems. People can drop their cars off at one or more fixed locations, and valets will park the cars. This would save restaurants from all having to staff their own valets.

Where would the cars go? Perhaps to some of the buildings that have garages but only open them up during the day. The valet provider could reach a deal with these buildings to use the garage at night. And if only valets are parking there, it wouldn't be necessary to staff each garage.

6. There are better uses of land here.

Any proposal to have the city provide cheap land always needs to be weighed against what else could go on the land. Housing would actively bring in tax revenue, as opposed to a parking garage which would burn through money. With public land, the District's policy has been to seek affordable housing, which could help more people of lower incomes live in this booming area.

Plus, existing residents probably would much rather live near residences than a large parking garage. Even if the garage were underground, it would generate a lot of traffic and diminish the value of whatever could go on top, or cut down on the amount of affordable housing that DC could get in a bidding process for the land.

But if someone wants to pay for some land, build a garage which isn't an eyesore or a source of unnecessary noise, or build some parking underneath a new building to sell to the public, that could be okay. But this isn't happening, which is why some nearby businesses are hoping the government will subsidize parking. That's not a good investment.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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If reason #4 is true, then the other ones are not.

"A garage would draw a lot more traffic to the area. That traffic would be particularly bad on S Street, but also bad in the rest of the neighborhood. "

The other points you make all point to the garage being worse than useless and something that visitors will not even consider as they look for parking. If any of that is true, then the garage will draw no additional traffic to the area. OTOH, if the garage is driving traffic to the area, then it will be filling up. No one is going to be attracted by the presence of a garage that they have no intention or desire to use.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 11, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

It would also be really easy for the people that need to park to do so at DC USA and then take the Circulator down to U Street.

by Ryan on Apr 11, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

I think I also agree with some proposals from the previous article on this to add a Circulator stop at 14th and R or 14th and S. Definitely makes 14th between P and U and bit less of a black hole (for those sorts of people who refuse to take a "normal" bus, at least).

In general, improving the 50s buses would also go a long way. I'm sorry I keep harping on it but if we're not going to do dedicated lanes on 14th, let's at least construct bus bulb-outs and after-light stops and make getting up and down this corridor a much less painful experience on a bus.

by LowHeadways on Apr 11, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

I mostly agree with you, but this

"Lewis mentions a shuttle from the parking garage, but there already is a Circulator from the Metro at McPherson Square and from the corner of 14th and U, a block from the U Street station. For those who can't walk from the Metro, the garage might be a little closer, but it would save only at most 2 blocks. "

is not really on point. The problem for suburbanites taking metro is NOT the walk from metro to 14th street - its using metro where you live. If I want to go to, say, the Studio theater, I can drive to Dunn Loring and pay $4.50 to park, then pay for round trip metro, then walk from the metro to the theatre. The total cost and time makes driving to DC attractive (and paying to park) attractive - esp given infrequent metro service at night (any other options have similar issues - taking the bus to Dunn Loring, or driving to free parking at Mosaic and walking to dunn loring - currently an unpleasant walk at night - or driving to Pentagon City - a higher parking cost, and I dont even get to avoid 395 as I do with Dunn Loring) The only reason we didn't pay to park last time was cause we found a street space a few blocks away.

Thats not an argument for a subsidized garage in this area - but a non-subsidized one MIGHT work, and in the absence of a garage, a shuttle to DCUSA might work, if it were sufficiently publicized.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

Multimodal means 'multi', not just transit and bikes. Eventually, GGW needs to reconcile itself to the fact that a large contingent still drives. The notion that "you can park a block or two from your destination" is probably one of the few glaringly stupid things I've read on this site, but it is nevertheless glaringly stupid.

Pay-by-phone, completely metered on-street parking under variable rates is a good idea but not one that will be implemented anytime soon, nor is it one that will ever actually deal with the reality that parking in commercially successful areas like 14th & U is too scarce.

Usually people who write that GGW is just anti-car are histrionic and wrong. But this would be a good article for such people to make the case.

by uncharacteristically unreasonable on Apr 11, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

@uncharacteristically unreasonable:

"Multimodal means 'multi', not just transit and bikes. Eventually, GGW needs to reconcile itself to the fact that a large contingent still drives.

Except that 40% of DC households do not own a car. Use the money that would be spent to build a garage to expand transit instead.

Additionally, as I mentioned the other day, it is much more cost-effective to use the infrastructure we already have. DDOT should look for opportunities to expand on-street parking by steps such as allowing parking on both sides of the street where it is wide enough, consolidating bus stops, relocating signs, etc...

by 202_Cyclist on Apr 11, 2014 10:42 am • linkreport

I think that eventually the drivers will have to reconcile themselves with the fact that there is limited roadways and parking in DC and that everyone can't just come in with their car and expect to park right next to their destination. Reality is you have to park a block or two from your destination, even if you park in a municipal garage. If I went to Bethesda with my car and parked in their municipal garage, I still have to walk a block or two to my destination.

by dc denizen on Apr 11, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

If we're actually studying parking in the 14th and U corridor, it would be great to know what the vacancy rate for on street spaces is. If 80-90% of spaces are filled at any given time, we've got a good balance. 90 - 100% of the spaces are filled, parking is scarce, and people will be circling and causing traffic jams.

http://www.uctc.net/papers/351.pdf

by Trollie McTrollerson on Apr 11, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

I do not think multimodal should exclude cars

I do think that, apart from the full market rate approach to on street spaces, its not anticar to either A. Allow an entity other than the city to build a garage - and the BID seems like the obvious choice, though this may be a big financial thing for them to take on - perhaps the city does it, but with the BID providing a partial or complete guarantee against the city losing money (a sort of reverse PPP) B. A subsidy, not for a new garage, but for a Circulator to DCUSA. That would connect the area to parking, the metro, AND to those residents of CH who do not choose to walk or bike.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

@dc denizen-

Agreed. But the beauty of Bethesda's system (if you don't live and can walk there) is that you can come by Metro or you can drive, The availability of garages combined with the restrictive street parking regulations for non-residents means that drivers don't circle and circle in a quest for street parking. They know that generally they can find a space in a garage, pay on their smart phones or by machine, and be on their way to their destination -- even if it means a walk of a block or two. There should be a similar scheme in areas of DC that have become dining and entertainment destinations.

by Alf on Apr 11, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

The notion that "you can park a block or two from your destination" is probably one of the few glaringly stupid things I've read on this site, but it is nevertheless glaringly stupid.If this is what people believe, then why should we build a garage? People won't use it because clearly they want to park directly in front of where they are going and will spend time in order to do so.

Parking would also be improved if there were some way to convince/incentivise residents who hardly use their cars to park them in a garage, lot, or other reserved space instead of on the street. Or to get rid of them. But that would require RPP permits that cost more than 10 cents a day.

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

Argh, completely f-ed up my formatting there. My response starts with "If this is what people believe..."

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

@202_Cyclist

"Except that 40% of DC households do not own a car. Use the money that would be spent to build a garage to expand transit instead."

So 60% of DC households do own cars. But it's not limited to DC. 14th & U is successful and viable because it draws traffic from Ffx, MC, Arl, Alx, and PGC. Ffx & MC are both more populous than DC is.

The reality is that transit is insufficient to connect the people spending money at 14th & U to 14th & U. A multi-modal solution must find a way to reduce the footprint of the cars that are trying to park in the area. That means dedicated parking.

HOW that happens is a legitimate policy question. WHETHER IT MUST happen is not.

by uncharacteristically unreasonable on Apr 11, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

Shared valet stands like Asheville are a great idea, Karina Ricks is one smart cookie, I will that she were back at DDOT.

by Alf on Apr 11, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

That's "wish."

by Alf on Apr 11, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

@AWallkerInTheCity: The reverse PPP is an interesting idea, and you're right to acknowledge that the BID could never aggregate the resources to correct the market failure. That requires city money, even if the BID ultimately has to pay it back somehow.

A Circulator from DCUSA, however, is unlikely to address issues. People will (1) not know about it, and (2) prefer to circle rather than park at DCUSA and take the circulator. If you doubt that people will go to great lengths to avoid a two-seat trip, I suggest you spend some time on the Pentagon City platform during rush hour.

by uncharacteristically unreasonable on Apr 11, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

"Parking would also be improved if there were some way to convince/incentivise residents who hardly use their cars to park them in a garage, lot, or other reserved space instead of on the street. "

Ah, but there is -- it's called requiring certain minimum off-street parking in new projects, not reducing or eliminating such requirements.

by Alf on Apr 11, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

The question is not whether we should be encouraging people to drive into the city. The question is what do we do to accommodate the people who WILL drive into the city no matter what, and prevent them from reducing quality of life of residents. People will walk a few blocks to their destination but ONLY if the parking is predictable and reliable. Betheda works because you know exactly where to go and the cost is reasonable. If the primary parking option is street parking, the driver has no way of knowing whether there are open spaces just a few blocks away, or if it really is worth circling the block a few times. A properly placed garage can give drivers a clear sense of where to go, and draw excees traffic away from walkable places.

Of course, this particular location on S street is a horrible idea. S street is bad enough already because of its narrow width. Put a garage there, and that block of S street will become clogged, and the intersections at 13th and 14th will be absolutely horrible. A garage entrance needs to be more readily accessible to major through streets, and not put in the center of a residential block.

by Chris T on Apr 11, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

@Chris T:

+π. This is the kind of reasoned approach that I expect from GGW; very much in contrast to the original posting.

by uncharacteristically unreasonable on Apr 11, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

UU

I am usually to go to Pentagon, not Pentagon City, at rush hour. What precisely are you referring to?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

@Alf
Ah, but there is -- it's called requiring certain minimum off-street parking in new projects, not reducing or eliminating such requirements.

Except it doesn't do that because you have to pay for your off-street parking space. Hard to compete with less than $3 a month for RPP.

There are already tons of garages and places to store cars in this city. They are used inefficiently and street parking prices don't encourage their use.

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

@AWallkerInTheCity: Rush+. Blue line riders are by and large preferring to wait and take a much more crowded Blue line than to take the Yellow Line and transfer to Red. The platform becomes so full that occasionally security even have to restrict entrance. It's a disaster.

But that's not my point. My point is that riders prefer predictability and avoid multi-seat trips. They will wait for a crowded Blue train over a transfer, and they will circle for on-street parking or pay through the gills for local garage parking before they park at DCUSA and then take a shuttle that they don't know about or have no reason to trust (even if it's Circulator).

by uncharacteristically unreasonable on Apr 11, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

@Alf

But there is a Metro at 14th & U as well. And, unlike Bethesda, there is a mix of residential and commercial off 14th which is not like Bethesda where the commercial space is zoned away from residences. Bethesda also has those huge roads which is able to handle all that traffic. That means it just seems easier to implement there. I really doubt you'd get a whole bunch of municipal garages on 14th to be able to take on all those drivers. The space is too expensive for garages and then market rates would go up, and then everybody would still circle the block. Plus, I'm not sure residences on 14th want to be a "destination place" for all these drivers.

by dc denizen on Apr 11, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

Chris

the thing about all accommodations to motorists (including parking, anticongestion road widenings, etc) is that all the steps that accommodate existing auto trips and have positive benefits (including reducing emissions from idling and from circling) ALSO induce more trips. Theres no way to avoid that, which is why finding the balance is difficult.

"If the primary parking option is street parking, the driver has no way of knowing whether there are open spaces just a few blocks away, or if it really is worth circling the block a few times"

The real answer is technology. Its 2014 (and will be 2016 by the time any garage is built). Why can't my smart phone tell me, in real time, where there are spots on the street, how much they cost, where there are spots in garages, how much they cost, the distance to my actual destination etc? better, I should be able to tell the app my tradeoff between walking distance and cost. Better still, the app should learn my tradeoff by observing the choices I make.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

Moot issue since it's zoned R-4.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 11, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

UU

its hard to tell standing on a platform where people are going. If they are going to foggy bottom or Farragut west, I dont think they are saving time with the Yellow plus a transfer. And much of the time the blue line isnt really that bad (I see it at Pentagon, where it should be worse) and folks are creatures of habit - so if most of the time blue works, and one in ten times its really awful they will still take blue.

As for finding out about the circulator, that is naturally something the local businesses and the BID could work on. People do use parking shuttles - IIUC a bunch of people used the NPS shuttles to see cherry blossoms this week. the Alexandria "trolley" is used heavily by folks to get from KS metro (granted thats not parking, but its a fairly short and very pleasant walk) to the waterfront. granted its free, but that might be a strategy too.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

14th st is really another good case for getting rid of street parking and putting in bus lanes. There are maybe 800 spaces on the stretch between Mcpherson and Columbia Heights. Meanwhile the 50s carry some 15,000 people a day plus another 4,000 on the circulators. Probably maybe half the total people use that stretch but thats still about 10,000 people a day vs maybe 2000 parkers a day.

Honestly though if it came down to a Faustian bargain where we had to trade a parcel for off street structured parking in order to get bus lanes, that seems like not a terrible scenario. Of course that should only be done after a parking survey shows that there is demand for market rate parking, otherwise just put in the bus lanes and parking will sort itself out.

by BTA on Apr 11, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

We have an example in the District where the District, working with a developer, built a garage - Adams Morgan. It it successful? Maybe but no one ever talks about it so it can't be all bad.

http://www.thecommondenominator.com/061598_news8.html

by Randall M. on Apr 11, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

BTA,

Moving people through the area, by bus or car or bike is not the only function of the streets or curb lanes. The 24-7 levels of activity in the businesses do require products to be delivered and by-products to be removed. Residents have pushed to have these functions occur street side instead of in alleys. You need to think of all the needs of the area, not just people moving.

by Just Me on Apr 11, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

AWalkerIntheCity MontCo. people want an (after Metro hours, too) 16th st -> Wheaton (Veirs Mill, University) bus.

by asffa on Apr 11, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

Parking would also be improved if there were some way to convince/incentivise residents who hardly use their cars to park them in a garage, lot, or other reserved space instead of on the street. Or to get rid of them. But that would require RPP permits that cost more than 10 cents a day.
I would really like to see DC build a database of addresses that have off street parking available to be them. This could take place as property valuations are conducted. There are tons of people in row houses or condos that have dedicated parking but choose to stuff their garages full of junk instead. You should either: not be eligible for an RPP unless you own more vehicles than parking spaces, or face a big penalty for the privilege (like 10x standard RPP price). Or both if it were totally up to me. I ride down the 4th St NE bike lane every morning but I never stop being angry at the person who owns the small trailer occupying a parking spot with an RPP sticker.

by dcmike on Apr 11, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

The fact that 60% of DC households own a car doesn't mean that 60% of DC households use that vehicle to go to 14/U Street on a weekend night. We have a single car two-person household but we use that car for reverse commuting not for trying to get to parking-scarce areas and then demanding a parking subsidy.

If the problem with getting suburbanites to DC nightlife destinations is the last mile at home, perhaps they should lobby their municipal governments to improve transit connections on that end rather than ask DC taxpayers to subsidize their parking.

People are clearly able to get to that corridor in droves as is -- why would we spend additional tax money to subsidize out-of-towners' parking?

by CBGB on Apr 11, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

Suburbanites aside, DC needs to get its act together in terms of providing more frequent nighttime transit to evening activity centers. You shouldn't have to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a bus downtown even at midnight. When they finally come they are often crammed to the gills because DC hasnt caught up with demand. And you know they have the buses if they can run more frequent service at rush hour. Same thing with midday Metro rides on the weekend. I've been on some of the most crowded Metro trains ever on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

by BTA on Apr 11, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

CBGB: "People are clearly able to get to that corridor in droves as is"

And while they're there, they circle for parking. While they circle for parking, they create unsafe conditions, burn gas, and don't spend the money on goods and services that they came to the area to spend. The lack of parking literally creates the worst possible outcome for all concerned players.

I see a lot of responses here to the tune of "garages will just encourage more drivers," "people who want to come here should lobby their municipalities for transit," or "why would we spend additional tax money to subsidize out-of-towners' parking?." To the extent that these are actually responses, they're profoundly unserious FUD.

How to get last mile return and origination transit to people who patronize 14th & U is a worthwhile discussion but entirely irrelevant to the fact that people are driving to 14th & U and will continue to do so in increasing volume as there is more to do there.

Garages may encourage more drivers, but that argument is a lot more applicable to arterial transportation than it is to end-point parking. People who have no realistic way to take transit to 14th & U, but who want to go to 14th & U, are going to drive. End. Deal with it. Find some sunglasses or something. They're not going to take transit that is unavailable to them because you have some normative desire for other people to take transit.

As to "perhaps they should lobby their municipal governments to improve transit connections on that end," all I need to do to refute that is repeat it. Res ipsa loquitur.

A parking garage won't solve all the problems. It won't make people stop parking their cars in free parking. It won't make everybody magically have Metro stop within a 1/2 mile from their house. But just because you don't like the idea of people driving to a central, metropolitan destination doesn't mean that they're all of a sudden going to stop driving to that central and metropolitan destination.

---

I frankly don't understand the kind of confusion that animates the question of "Why should DC subsidize parking?" Municipalities subsidize transportation. That is part of what they do. They subsidize all kinds of it. Incoming, outgoing, and through-going. They subsidize bikes, rail, buses, roads, and even parking.

There is a legitimate variant of the question, that goes something like this: "What is the proper balance between subsidized parking and subsidies for other modes of transit, given our policy goals like generating sales tax revenue and creating a desirable mixed-use area?"

"Why should we subsidize parking," on the other hand, is both a confused and illegitimate policy question.

by uncharacteristically unreasonable on Apr 11, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

A parking garage there is such a terrible idea. Roger Lewis ends with the red herring of touting the benefits of a garage instead of surface parking lots... which are clearly widespread at 14th and U.

I guess every special interest would like some government-subsidized infrastructure so it's hard to blame them. And you have to admire the chutzpah. "14th and U is booming! It clearly needs help, and a parking garage is the solution!"

I appreciate David Alpert's recommendation along the lines of "If it's such a good idea, go ahead and buy some land and build a garage." When you're no longer playing with other people's money, it suddenly becomes clear that a parking garage is not even among the top 10 best uses for that land.

by Tim H on Apr 11, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

"And while they're there, they circle for parking. While they circle for parking, they create unsafe conditions,"

an externality impacting all

" burn gas," partly internalized (the financial cost) but partly external impacting all.

" and don't spend the money on goods and services that they came to the area to spend" external, but mostly impacting local area businesses.

IF a garage should be built, who should pay for it In order A. The actual users B. Local businesses either via discount parking coupons, or via subsidies from the BID C. and last, and probably least, the District.

I think theres nothing wrong with floating the idea of the District pitching in simply by changing the zoning to allow it, and seeing if the BID will pay (via whatever financial mechanism) the full cost of the subsidy. I suspect there is a strong chance they will not. One could then ask for a counter proposal - if the BID is willing to pay, say 70% of the subsidy, it might be worth it for DC to pay 30% to avoid the circling externalities.

It is not incorrect however, to consider that the benefits of reducing circling will be offset, at least in part, by encouraging more vehicle trips.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

"If the problem with getting suburbanites to DC nightlife destinations is the last mile at home, perhaps they should lobby their municipal governments to improve transit connections on that end rather than ask DC taxpayers to subsidize their parking."

Why would it be more reasonable, appropriate or logical for suburban governments (very few of which are municipal -- much of the areas around DC are organized strictly by county/state) to pay to subsidize access to transportation that will economically advantage the District of Columbia?

We are discussing a small project that will provide economic benefit to District businesses, making the neighborhood more accessible to suburban visitors. The cost is much less than a sprawling network of buses to serve suburbanites wanting access to Metro, and it is also much more sensible to do where the impact/benefits will be highest.

Moreover, it isn't just the last mile. Metro is unreliable these days, and hte wait times are very long at night and on weekends. For those who would have a very long Metro ride to begin with, adding more wait time and several additional modes of transit to such a trip more often than not will mean that the suburbanite will find something else to do. Trips into the city will be fewer than they otherwise would be if they could get conveniently from one place to another by car. Add in the cost of a family outing to theaters with multiple Metro fares and possibly other bus fares, and all of a sudden, paying several dollars an hour to park doesn't sound so crazy.

Having to walk a couple of blocks after parking is expected. First, though, you need to find that spot. Having a garage where one could expect to find a spot, rather than circling a four/six/eight block radius searching for street parking. Is that site the right one? If the entrance would be on S st., then perhaps it would not be -- though traffic flow might actually be better even on that street, if there is a reduction of circling for on=street parking. I'm not arguing that this is a great location for a municipal garage (although, I think the neighborhood could really benefit from such a facility). The arguments I am reading against having municipal parking in the neighborhood, however, are based in anti-car ideology, rather than anything resembling the reality that most residents of the region experience.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 11, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

"If the problem with getting suburbanites to DC nightlife destinations is the last mile at home, perhaps they should lobby their municipal governments to improve transit connections on that end rather than ask DC taxpayers to subsidize their parking"

I am not asking DC taxpayers to do that for my benefit. I think the discussion is if it makes sense for DC (or the BID - why do both sides seem to neglect the obvious solution?) to subsidize it.

While I certainly want to see FFX county make metro more accesible (not only by more metro rail and better bus service to metro, but by more development near metro, and improving bike/ped access) the reality is you are always going to have large areas of the suburbs where its easier and cheaper to drive than to do a multi seat transit commute. Esp on evenings and weekends, when metrorail (and any connector bus services in the burbs) is less frequent, and when the big deterrent to driving, congestion on the highways, is not that bad. So the question is, what, if anything, is it worth doing about it?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

"We are discussing a small project that will provide economic benefit to District businesses, making the neighborhood more accessible to suburban visitors."

Though that of course suggests a BID subsidy.

"The cost is much less than a sprawling network of buses to serve suburbanites wanting access to Metro, and it is also much more sensible to do where the impact/benefits will be highest."

Of course the benefits of that are far more than just getting to nightlife on 14th street, esp to the extent we colocate activity centers with metro stations.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

I have to agree that more and more people will always drive. I haven't noticed a strong increase in traffic on 14th st in the past 10 years. Once it approaches capacity people start taking that into consideration when planning a trip. That means some people take transit and some people bike and some people take uber and some people park 5 blocks away and walk. Furthermore I havent noticed businesses suffering because of lack of clientelle. Most places are packed nights and weekends. There maybe be some shifting in terms of who is ulitimately patronizing establishements in the area based on access but you'd have to make a case that they were worse off because of it. I'm generally for some thoughtfully placed garages in the city and also raising street parking prices and RPPs to a market-indicated rate but I'd need to see some number showing that lack of parking was hurting business before I'd concede it's an economic necessity.

by BTA on Apr 11, 2014 1:35 pm • linkreport

hah, agree = disagree

by BTA on Apr 11, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

1. The area could do better with it. Whether anti-car people like it or not, businesses have customers who are car-oriented, and residents want more parking options.

2. The argument that it won't solve anything is like saying don't conserve energy or recycle b/c it won't "solve" the pollution problem, whilst ignoring that it's a step toward helping to mitigate the problem.

3. People from the outskirts and suburbs flock to U St's bars and restaurants via car, mostly in the evening and late nights. So it's incomparable to Columbia Heights in that respect.

4. If anything, one could easily argue that the lack of parking encourages traffic congestion, as people circle the blocks looking for street parking, as I and many others can attest.

5. Obviously street parking that's close to one's destination is preferable, but it's not always available. That's the point for building a parking garage.

6. You may think there are better ways to use the land, but the businesses and residents do not agree. It's funny how this plot has been a surface gov't lot for many years, not making any money or benefiting the community, and not one word of criticism from GGW. Now that the locals want more parking options, GGW is up in arms?

by Burd on Apr 11, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

If anything, one could easily argue that the lack of parking encourages traffic congestion, as people circle the blocks looking for street parking, as I and many others can attest.

Yet, this also happens in places with plenty of off-street parking garages. It happens in Columbia Heights; it happens in Adams Morgan - both places with off-street garages open to the public.

It's not a lack of parking that causes people to cruise for free on-street spots; it's that we're charging the wrong price for that parking. Building a garage doesn't change that.

by Alex B. on Apr 11, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

14th and U is successful because it is urban and not car-oriented. Suburban drivers go there despite all the problems they face with parking because they like the urban environment there, which is created precisely because it does not cater to them. If they want convenience, they can stay in the suburbs and dine in mega-mall with acres of parking.

by Steve on Apr 11, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

If you cater to drivers, you destroy the very thing they go down there to experience.

by Steve on Apr 11, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

If RPP were priced higher then those garages that are now closed during late-night hours would find it worth their while to open. There is a garage at Union Row that closes at 10:30PM. Why? Because they don't find it worth the money to be open late.

There is a garage at the Reeves Center. What is the utilization there? That would give you some idea of how used this garage might be.

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

"14th and U is successful because it is urban and not car-oriented. "

Yes and no. We have been down to 14th for evening activities twice in the last couple of months. First time was to walk and dine. We went specifically for the urban experience. Second time was to see a show at Studio theater. Had the same show been in the suburbs, we would have gone to see it in the suburbs. There are theaters in the suburbs, but they don't show the same plays on any given night. I suspect there are some 14th street dining experiences that are also not easily replicable in the suburbs.

Alex and MLD

Is a shift to appropriately pricing on street spots (including those not now metered) really in the cards any time soon? I wonder.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

We have two competing ideas:

1) We need government to provide parking to save 14th Street
2) Parking will destroy 14th Street

1) If a parking garage is a "public good" in that it serves the needs of District residence and allows people who would otherwise be unable to to visit this area, then fine, build a garage.

If a garage is to be build, even if it is a public good, why must the government pay for it? If parking were that necessary, that valuable, some enterprising conglomerate would purchase land at its full market value, make the required deals with the District to allow for construction, and charge a market rate for the space. This has happened in other places all over the world, including the District, why are some implying that it MUST be created by the District?

2) Some people will only drive to places. A garage is not for them. Some will never go to 14th street because it's not their cup of tea or because they can only parallel park. There are those who live in the hinterlands who would consider taking public transportation but are afraid of night time or do not wish to spend 4 hours waiting for the Red Line to be rebuilt. These are the people we have to manage. It's not necessary the transportation problem at 14th street but the regional problem of an third world transit system on the weekends.

Buses will not solve this problem because some simply cannot fathom it. They can fathom cars, streetcar or metrorail. That's long term. Short term, nothing is easy. Residents could sell rear parking or alley space. The District could charge more for street parking to free up parking. Let's test the elasticity of parking first by raising rates and ticketing.

by Randall M. on Apr 11, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

Reason #1 is clearly the biggest D--N LIE, because there are a lot of folx that complain about lack of parking. And let's be real folx; the main reason why the new folx want to reduce parking options in that area is not only because they hate cars but they are also uncomfortable with large number of people of color going to the lounges and restaurants on U & 14th Streets NW.

by tom on Apr 11, 2014 2:22 pm • linkreport

"In fact, restaurants on 14th Street are mostly full night after night, and the most popular ones have an hours-long wait or a weeks-long line for reservations. "

does the above indicate irrational pricing (for restaurant meals), or that certain restaurants are rationally expecting the current buzz around them to die down somewhat?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

The reason many people drive to 14th/U is that there's sufficient road capacity in the evenings to make it a reasonably quick and convenient drive. What's the point in investing all that money in roads, only to funnel everyone into a bottleneck at the very end of their trip? The bottleneck I'm referring to here is parking.

It's kind of like having an escalator full of people going down but having no place for them to step off when when they get to the bottom of the escalator. Inevitably, there's a huge traffic jam at the bottom of the escalator which can be quite dangerous. All the cars circling around looking for parking is quite dangerous too. Especially, since drivers typically are scanning the streets for parking instead of keeping their eyes on the road.

by Falls Church on Apr 11, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

Catering to drivers more is not the answer for more growth 14th and U. It already is growing like topsy. Figure out what is working and do more of it. Convenient parking is not part of that equation. People who demand auto convenience have plenty of options in the suburbs.

by Steve on Apr 11, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

"The reason many people drive to 14th/U is that there's sufficient road capacity in the evenings to make it a reasonably quick and convenient drive. What's the point in investing all that money in roads,"

The District is not investing in roads such as I395 or I66, now is it? And the local roads in the district that connect to them are very old legacy infra, and were built for other purposes.

" only to funnel everyone into a bottleneck at the very end of their trip? The bottleneck I'm referring to here is parking"

Conceivably the cost of providing relief to the bottleneck could be so high, its just not worth it. Imagine that there was no surface lot there, and the only way to create a garage was to tear down several million dollar rowhouses. In that case we would just be debating pricing on street spaces versus a circulator bus to DCUSA.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

If the induced demand to drive into the city is caused by the real or perceived low cost of parking, then we should attack the problem of cost for a scarce resource rather than further limiting the supply of that same resource.

Why not build a garage that charges market rates for spaces, and convert all street parking to resident only (or those with visitor tags)? This would make sure that those driving from out of town are paying the true cost of the infrastructure they are using, and ensure that local residents always have the ability to park close to home, even when that home happens to be within a regional nightlife destination. Visitor parking can be clearly labeled and strategically placed to direct traffic away from residential streets.

Build the infrastructure that people are willing to pay for. Charge market rate, and eliminate or equalize the costs for similar resources (street parking). Exempt those that live locally and pay real estate taxes. This is not an either/or between cars and transit. Transit should be an attractive, cost-effective option for most people. But for those that are willing to pay the premium, shouldn't we be willing to take their money?

by Chris T on Apr 11, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

It certainly seems like there is no shortage of people going to the businesses on the 14th and U Street corridors.

And, there's no shortage of people going downtown to work at jobs. Yet, there are still strong arguments for adding transit capacity downtown so you can accommodate even more people. Similarly, there's a case for increasing the multimodal transportation capacity to 14th/U.

The bottom line is that adding supply is not going to make local streets clear and easy to park on.

Nor will adding supply to the apartment/condo market make housing cheap and easy to obtain. But, adding supply does have an effect even if it induces demand (as both adding parking and adding housing would do).

In Columbia Heights, the large DC USA garage continues to go largely empty, even though it costs just $1.50 an hour.

I really think the reason is that people don't realize they can park at DC USA to go to other destinations in CH. It's not advertised as a municipal garage and most people assume that to park at a mall or retailers space means you have to be visiting that mall/retailer.

A garage would draw a lot more traffic to the area.

Considering that 30% of congestion is people looking for parking, it's not clear how much of an impact on traffic a garage would have.

It would be technically simple to require that anyone from outside the neighborhood parking here use the pay-by-phone system (or an alternative for those who can't use it) to pay a rate for parking that equalizes supply and demand.

Every part of our transportation network is subsidized. We never set the price for any of it at the point where supply equals demand. Requiring the price of parking to be at the market rate would be holding it to an unequal standard compared to the rest of the transportation system.

by Falls Church on Apr 11, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport

Chris T

that would further incent car ownership among local residents, at the expense of local businesses. And note, not only would that limit parking for those out of town, but for DC residents from outside the ward. While (under current DC parking rules) allowing folks who live in the ward (but not the immediate area) to park there.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

If parking is what people want, Route 1 south of the Beltway or Rockville Pike are just the ticket. Make 14th and U another auto-centric place and all the urban hipsters that currently define the place will go somewhere else. H Street NE?

by Steve on Apr 11, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

"Considering that 30% of congestion is people looking for parking, it's not clear how much of an impact on traffic a garage would have."

are the local streets of Logan Circle congested on evenings and weekends?

and why can't we address circling by using technology to improve info on parking spot availability?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

Re: Auto-centricity

I don't see how converting a parcel that's currently being used to park government vehicles into public parking will make 14th/U "auto-centric" or in any meaningful way change the character of the area. What makes a place auto-centric (or not) is much more the design and capacity of roads and the form of structures built on land.

For example, taking away all the parking would not somehow magically make Tysons into a non-auto-centric place. If only it was that easy.

by Falls Church on Apr 11, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

lets be clear - a surface lot in a location that hot is just a temp usage till it gets redeveloped. Building a structured garage is committing it to autocentric usage.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

@ davidalpert

Your key argument about the high cost of the garage seems off in several ways. You should look at the comment on Part 1 posted by parkingguru. I would add to his points the following:

The Victoria study you rely on found construction cost of $14,500 for Baltimore. Inflation adjusting puts you in the lower range parkingguru cites. 25% of the maintenance costs in the Study are for employing a parking booth attendant. I doubt that is proposed here. You don't consider the nine condos that are part of the project. Given a standard 20% developer profit that means the condos could pay for as much as 10% of the construction cost. Going forward the city will also be collecting something like $40 to 60K a year in property taxes on those condos. Bond rates are also much lower than you cite. For example, O’Hare just secured financing on a garage project at 3.5% over 39 years (not 6% over 20). I am currently working on an LAX garage project with financing projected at 3.5 to 4.25% over 30 to 39 years. The cost per acre for land based on the residential property tax assessments on the 1300 block of S would be around $8.25 million per acre – not $9.5m. So the land cost would be $30k per space and not $36k. Considering 1325 S is now assessed at $4.5m and makes up most of this site, the land price would drop even further. And since DC would not be paying for the land, there would be no purchase debt to service. There may be a missed opportunity costs, but the fees at the garage don't have to reflect paying a land debt. And your claim that a garage can't be profitable or a private developer would have built one does make sense. All that proves is developers make more money along 14th street building luxury condos with no parking -- so that's what they build.

I live a little more than 2 blocks from this location and have mixed feelings about the project. It could be a good part of a comprehensive fix to the areas parking problems, but a mixed blessing if it is done without also addressing the fact that street parking is free every night and every weekend. A balance review of all of the options and an unbiased assessment of the cost of the garage would be helpful.

by DupontDem on Apr 11, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

and why can't we address circling by using technology to improve info on parking spot availability?

Maybe that's possible. Just like it's possible that we can solve rush hour traffic through telecommuting. However, I'd like to see the technology prove that it works in general and specifically works to reduce circling in a pilot before relying on it on a grander scale.

And the local roads in the district that connect to them are very old legacy infra, and were built for other purposes.

DC spends plenty of money on roads. My point still stands. Why spend a lot of money on roads that just funnel everyone into a bottleneck? Makes more sense to spend money relieving the bottleneck.

Conceivably the cost of providing relief to the bottleneck could be so high, its just not worth it.

Agreed. But, I don't think it is in this case. If you remove the opportunity cost of the land from the cost of parking in this case, the cost is quite reasonable. Opportunity costs, while legitimate costs, are often not part of the analysis of a transportation project. For example, when folks talk about the cost of dedicated bus lanes, they don't include the opportunity cost of using the space for something else. Or, when using government land to build affordable housing (or requiring that bids on govt land include affordable housing), the opportunity cost is not factored into the cost of that housing.

by Falls Church on Apr 11, 2014 3:12 pm • linkreport

There are already thousands of open parking spaces in downtown garages, some just a few blocks away from the Studio Theater. Everyone wins with a shared valet parking system:
- Drivers get (almost) door-to-door access
- Businesses on 14th get to offer convenient access
- Valets get jobs, tips
- Buildings downtown get extra revenue, don't have security problem of having strange people wandering around at night
- A new 14th St. BID won't be saddled with onerous liabilities

I was on a BID board in Chicago that got a couple of unsolicited proposals to subsidize, in some way, a parking garage in the neighborhood. Even just paying for the shuttle bus would've cost six figures a year. When the city sold off the parking meters and jacked up rates, parking suddenly became available. Problem solved.

by Payton Chung on Apr 11, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

http://www.reinventingparking.org/2013/10/is-30-of-traffic-actually-searching-for.html

Donald Shoup is the original source of this "30% of traffic" talk. Did he claim that 30 percent of congestion is due to parking search traffic? Not exactly. Here he is in 2011:

Sixteen studies conducted between 1927 and 2001 found that, on average, 30 percent of the cars in congested downtown traffic were cruising for parking. [my emphasis]

I thought that number sounded wrong.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

"If you remove the opportunity cost of the land from the cost of parking in this case, the cost is quite reasonable. Opportunity costs, while legitimate costs, are often not part of the analysis of a transportation project."

Its normally part of any Benefit Cost Analysis.

" For example, when folks talk about the cost of dedicated bus lanes, they don't include the opportunity cost of using the space for something else."

Sure they do. No one is going to use those lanes to build condos - the opportunity cost is keeping them as general travel lanes, and the cost of moving automobiles out of the lanes has been extensively discussed.

" Or, when using government land to build affordable housing (or requiring that bids on govt land include affordable housing), the opportunity cost is not factored into the cost of that housing."

Its clearly part of the total cost from a Ben Cost POV - we just dont generally do Ben Cost on affordable housing. In terms of cost effectiveness it certainly matters - thats why DC is so much more eager to build AH on govt owned parcels in Anacostia than WOTR.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

David Alpert persists with this doctrinaire anti parking nonsense, despite being refuted in the comments section of this and the article of a few days ago.

If he is so anti automobile, then he should, as a Washington, D.C. resident, SELL his own automobile, or at least park it in a peripheral garage away from downtown, and relay upon transit to take him to it.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Apr 11, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

I just think the whole circling issue is overdone. The studies showed not 30% of VMT or of "congestion" but of vehicles in congestion - which if they spend a small number of VMTs (compared to other non circling VMT) could mean a very small prct of VMT. And the studies were specifically of crowded downtowns. And, yes, we are making great strides on parking apps, including use of censors to identify available spots - I really think this is a much easier technical problem than those associated with a complete breakthrough in teleworking.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

You can model alternative options under cost benefits and compare the results but that is not what David is doing. He is taking the "lost profits" and adding them into the operating estimates for the garage. No one does that. And if you properly value the construction, maintenance, and financing costs here then David's estimates on the hourly fee are crazy high. The Bethesda garage this proposal is modeled upon is successful at $1.25 an hour and as David notes Columbia Heights is $1.50. I know that garage sucks and is only half full but the point is if it can operate by charging $1.50 and Bethesda $1.25, then there is no way this garage would have to charge three times those other two garages just to break even. Having worked with City agencies on garage projects I would be surprised if DC didn't make a steady profit - not a loss - off of a garage at his location. There may be more profitable uses of the land, but that is a different question.

by DupontDem on Apr 11, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

the point is if it can operate by charging $1.50 and Bethesda $1.25, then there is no way this garage would have to charge three times those other two garages just to break even

Only if those garages break even, and I'm pretty sure they don't. Maybe on operating costs alone, but not on construction costs.

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

I live RIGHT THERE. I don't own a car. I specifically moved there so I wouldn't NEED a car. This area could stand to be a good deal more car-unfriendly.

And a lot of what everyone has been saying goes back to my username (and indeed, the impetus for me becoming aware of transit and urbanism): a crippling lack of frequency on all of our transit lines. Start running sub-5 minute headways basically all the time, and I guarantee you will massive gains in ridership.

But at any rate, a garage is pointless. Eventually people will get sick of driving around looking for parking, and they'll either stop coming entirely or they'll stop driving in.

Either way, win-win.

by LowHeadways on Apr 11, 2014 4:07 pm • linkreport

@ MLD - "Only if those garages break even, and I'm pretty sure they don't. Maybe on operating costs alone, but not on construction costs."

Very good point. I'm not sure about Columbia Heights garage so you may be right about that one, but I know the last garage Bethesda built at Woodmont just a couple of years ago was fully paid for by the area's parking collections. So Bethesda's garages have an operating profit sufficient to pay off construction financing.

by DupontDem on Apr 11, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

why can't we address circling by using technology to improve info on parking spot availability?

Because having drivers checking on their smart phone apps for parking spaces is perhaps not the sort of behavior we want to encourage in a busy downtown full of pedestrians? At least, not until we're all driving them fancy Google cars.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 11, 2014 4:41 pm • linkreport

One can of course pull over (into a no parking space, like a bus stop) and check one's phone. Longer run we could have apps like this with voice input, audio output, integrated with the car.

Or just stop. When we circled for parking nr 14th street it was on the quiet side streets - no harder to stop to look at a phone than to stop to back into a tight space.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

Ridiculous proposal from a business group that unfortunately can't think outside the box enough to make use of the empty garages plus Circulator. It's not the visitors' responsibility to know about the Circulator to the empty garages. The drivers aren't from here. That has to be advertised and incentives should be offered. The bars are making plenty of cash to provide incentives.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 11, 2014 5:34 pm • linkreport

@Payton Chung
There are already thousands of open parking spaces in downtown garages, some just a few blocks away from the Studio Theater. Everyone wins with a shared valet parking system:
- Drivers get (almost) door-to-door access
- Businesses on 14th get to offer convenient access
- Valets get jobs, tips
- Buildings downtown get extra revenue, don't have security problem of having strange people wandering around at night
- A new 14th St. BID won't be saddled with onerous liabilities

This is a good idea. Seems like you could contract the garage company (Colonial or whoever) to run it with a garage they control.

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 5:48 pm • linkreport

Just build the D--n garage and ignore the folx complaining. It is not the end of the world to build it. I'm soo sick of these anti car posse trying to take over dc and I would bet my bottom dollar that a lot of them are hoping that this anti car agenda will help force more lower-middle class young people of color minorities out of the city.

by tom on Apr 11, 2014 6:56 pm • linkreport

We already have valet parking at most of the cafes and clubs but they mostly park cars around U Street, not in garages. It's not pleasant living next to a lot used by valets. Car alarms are constantly going off as the parkers are not familiar with every car and sometimes they can't figure out how to turn an alarm off at all.

For a while we had one next to my house and often myself or a neighbor would have to get up and go out at 2am to show the valets how to turn an alarm off. (Most are recent immigrants from Ethiopia). I'd guess car alarms went off next door about 100 times a night on Fridays and Saturdays.

I'm good friends with the owner of U Street Parking and always got free parking but I don't miss that valet lot one bit.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 11, 2014 8:18 pm • linkreport

This article is spot on. A local jurisdiction may be able justify subsidizing parking for retail support only if the walkable/transit accessible population is too small to support it. This can be true in places like Silver Spring where patronage relies a lot on people coming from further away in the suburbs. This is clearly not the case anywhere along 14th st NW in DC. There is clearly enough people walking the streets coming from neighboring residences or the Metro system to sustain business.

If they do insist on building a parking garage, perhaps they should try to expand its use to permit parking. That way it can be utilized at night time by residences and not wastefully be left empty.

by Chris Allen, PE on Apr 11, 2014 9:00 pm • linkreport

I'd really like 24 hour resident only parking in all of the U st neighborhood be cause the only negative impacts we residents have from living here is people driving around looking for parking, walking to parking in the residential areas etc. Of a garage will allow for that it will improve my life.

by egk on Apr 11, 2014 10:15 pm • linkreport

@David,
Why do you insist on perpetuating clearly bogus numbers? I laid out a pretty detailed and factual rebuttal in your last post on this that has the cost 53-57% less than you are listing here.

Your revenue bond expense is 26% higher than reality, your costs are all over the place and your amortization (aaas pointed out by another) was half the actual time.

These are about the most "ginned" up numbers one could have, yet after having that pointed out to you, you double down with it again in this article. Why are you trying to purposely mislead your readers?

by Parkingguru on Apr 12, 2014 7:40 am • linkreport

14TH & U: SHOULD BE AN OFFICE BUILDING - While I appreciate this review of arguments against a parking garage in this location, it fails miserably in representing a predominate option: that the 14th/U location should be rehabilitated into an office building. The 14th/U streets corridors are well populated by nightclubs/bars which serve the night-time revelers. However, an office building would assist with day-time traffic which would support better day-time traffic commercial establishments which would be the highest and best use for this location. The day-time oriented commercial establishments would round-out and solidify a diverse set of commerce that is not all night-time, drinking-based.

by 9th Street Neighbor on Apr 12, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

9th Street Neighbor,

I fully agree with you regarding 14th & U being developed as an office building that would also provide the more spaces than this proposed garage, that would be mostly empty when the greatest need exists, creating a win win without the expense of a stand alone garage. I would recommend the same for the 14th & S site. An incubator/non-profit/activity center that is primarily daytime use could create customers and provide nighttime parking.

I don't totally agree with your assessment of the establishments as nightclubs/bars, most of these businesses are also well known for their dining experience which serve the residents in the area. Those businesses also easily transform to take in daytime revenue if there is an office and/or tourist presence.

The entities that need parking the most are the Theatres, Studio, Source and Lincoln, that have larger crowds that are arriving by all means, including cars. Their customers hopefully will be making a night of it with dinner, a show and music or dancing afterwards. These venues are regional draws and public transportation is not always convenient for an evening out.

Whitman Walker and the Reeves Center anchored the daytime foot traffic for years and we had hoped a hotel at 13th & U would have provided managed parking and daytime foot traffic with disposable income, instead there will be more residential.

Bottom line is that it is offices with parking that could be used to alleviate parking stresses is what is lacking for the 14th & U areas, and the Reeves Center development is key to maintaining a healthy time of use balance for the community.

by Scott on Apr 12, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

Oh honestly! If there were still a streetcar (trolley) running on 14th Street NW, this would probably be a moot point. Take a look at the pre-1962 streetcar routes, and you'll see that it was obviously *much* easier to get around DC before. (14th St route appears to run from the Bureau of Printing & Engraving to Colorado Avenue NW) My mom grew up in Chevy Chase DC, and went everywhere without driving, and that includes the WWII era when the population reached 900,000 in 1943. http://ghostsofdc.org/2012/06/27/streetcar-photos/ I don't believe that I've seen any mention of streetcars in any of the 80+ posts here.

by realtored on Apr 12, 2014 1:46 pm • linkreport

How about a weekend/evening circulator between the DC USA garage in Columbia Heights and running along 14th Street?

by David in Shaw on Apr 13, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

Building parking garages is the exact opposite direction this city should be heading in, especially in a dense pedestrian friendly Logan Circle hood.

by Thayer-D on Apr 13, 2014 9:56 am • linkreport

DC is already at its self-imposed bonding limit, @parkingguru and @dupontdem. Any garage here would have to access the commercial funding markets, just as DC will do with the various United stadium deals.

BTW, there's no indication from market prices that Logan Circle is particularly short of parking.

by Payton Chung on Apr 13, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

Payton,
[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

Point 1. DC isn't at its limit. As you yourself mention, if DC moves forward with the United, that expenditure will be Bond finances (likely a lease-revenue bond). How do you think DC is going to finace the multibillion dollar street car if we are at capacity? Based on budget surplus and revenue growth the past 2 fiscal years, DC right now, this very minute has about a qtr of a billion it could tap in general obligation bonds.

Point 2. There are obligation bonds, revenue bonds. lease revenue bonds (and some other more exotic), but they all affect the cap differently because some have underlying support revenue to pay it off, others (that the city uses for improvements to the 11th st bridge for example), are funding directly by tax dollars. Then there is TIF as a method of funding. The point is, DC could underwrite the construction of a garage here tomorrow, and they could do it for 4.75% (or less), not 6%, and the hourly cost to do so is atleast 53-57% lower than referenced here.

by parkingguru on Apr 13, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

@ Payton

As parkingguru explains, you are simply wrong about the bond issue. And I am stunned anyone would argue we don't have a parking shortage in the 14th street area. Just because there are some monthly rentals available and few spaces for sale, doesn't prove anything. And it certainly has virtually no relevance to the crowds of outside visitors who come in and circle endlessly to park for free and go to a bar or restaurant.

by dupontdem on Apr 13, 2014 6:36 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Dupontdem on Apr 14, 2014 12:07 am • linkreport

There's a parking shortage in Dupont Circle because the neighborhood should be more about the pedestrian than those who'd like to drive in, pick up a coffee and breeze on out. If you build it, they will come. Let them come by transit or suffer the consequences of expecting every locality to suite your prefered mode of transit.

by Thayer-D on Apr 14, 2014 8:35 am • linkreport

And I am stunned anyone would argue we don't have a parking shortage in the 14th street area. Just because there are some monthly rentals available and few spaces for sale, doesn't prove anything. And it certainly has virtually no relevance to the crowds of outside visitors who come in and circle endlessly to park for free and go to a bar or restaurant.

And you've identified the reason for the percieved shortage: people park for free. I'm stunned that there's talk about a shortage without discussing price.

The problem isn't supply. If you're currently concerned about people circling to find free spaces, how will a lot with substantial costs change that? Those same people will continue to circle for the free parking.

If your goal is to provide enough parking so that there is always supply and the price to the user is still free, I would suggest that such a goal will never (and should never) be met in a city where there are much stronger competing uses for that space.

by Alex B. on Apr 14, 2014 8:56 am • linkreport

An hours long wait or weeks-long line for reservation is not exactly a good thing for those of us who like to eat at restaurants. I know many people who no longer go to 14th St on the weekends because the wait for tables is so long. This could also be an indicator of a shortage of very good restaurants and an inability to meet the existing demand.

3. It might not even fill up..... 4. It will have significant downsides to the neighborhood.

Wow, talk about a contradiction. Did someone not proof read this article before it went live? If there is not enough demand to fill the lot, then how is there also too much additional traffic to the area? We're only talking about a garage of 400-500 spaces at the most. By comparison, the DCUSA garage is 1000 spaces, which, incidentally, the city has already paid off 15 years early despite the fact that it is never full.

by Scoot on Apr 14, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

By comparison, the DCUSA garage is 1000 spaces, which, incidentally, the city has already paid off 15 years early despite the fact that it is never full.

Because it was paid off with sales tax revenue not garage revenue.

If you are counting on this garage being paid for with garage revenue then citing projects paid for with other unrelated revenue doesn't really help your case.

by MLD on Apr 14, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

Wow, talk about a contradiction. Did someone not proof read this article before it went live? If there is not enough demand to fill the lot, then how is there also too much additional traffic to the area?

How is that a contradiction? You cite DC USA; the lot isn't full, yet it certainly induces some traffic.

Beyond that, you're missing the most obvious point: who is arguing that the parking garage is the best use of that land? At least with DC USA, you got some additional development out of it - it wasn't parking for the sake of parking.

By comparison, the DCUSA garage is 1000 spaces, which, incidentally, the city has already paid off 15 years early despite the fact that it is never full.

That's because the city paid it off based on non-parking revenues. The bonds for that project were based on sales taxes from the development above, not on parking revenues from the garage: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/breaking_ground/2014/02/dc-pays-off-dcusa-garage-15-years.html?page=all

by Alex B. on Apr 14, 2014 11:46 am • linkreport

If you are counting on this garage being paid for with garage revenue then citing projects paid for with other unrelated revenue doesn't really help your case.

Why would I be counting on that? When did I ever state, imply or suggest that the best, to say nothing of only, way to pay for the garage would be by using garage revenue?

by Scoot on Apr 14, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

How is that a contradiction? You cite DC USA; the lot isn't full, yet it certainly induces some traffic.

The article did not assume that the lot would induce "some traffic" -- the article assumed that the lot would "draw a lot more traffic to the area" with "particularly bad traffic on S Street" but also "bad in the rest of the neighborhood" resulting in "a lot of downsides".

Then the article posits that the new garage would go "largely unused".

Clearly I'm not the only person confused about this logic, considering that the very first comment on the blog post addressed the same issue.

by Scoot on Apr 14, 2014 12:07 pm • linkreport

@Scoot
Why would I be counting on that? When did I ever state, imply or suggest that the best, to say nothing of only, way to pay for the garage would be by using garage revenue?

Why bring up the fact that it was paid off except to imply that it was paid off because the garage was financially successful? In using the word "incidentally" it seemed to me you wanted to bring this up to prove a point. That point is, apparently, that we can pay for things using government funds? I think we all already know that. If that's the case then we have to go into what we won't be paying for because instead we'll be paying for this garage.

by MLD on Apr 14, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

Clearly I'm not the only person confused about this logic, considering that the very first comment on the blog post addressed the same issue.

Maybe you're hung up on the word 'unused,' but again, DC USA is an example. It is underused, but the garage entrances/exits (all on side streets) clearly induce traffic. This is not a contradiction.

If you want to argue about language, that's fine - but even that doesn't rise to the level of a contradiction.

by Alex B. on Apr 14, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

Why bring up the fact that it was paid off except to imply that it was paid off because the garage was financially successful?

Well, the garage was financially successful. The government now owns the garage free of debt obligation, and only has to spend a few million dollars per year to operate it while benefiting from $15 million sales tax revenue from the surrounding complex.

That point is, apparently, that we can pay for things using government funds? I think we all already know that.

If we did, then we apparently haven't yet considered it as an option, since all the talk so far has been about how to pay for the garage using parking revenue alone.

by Scoot on Apr 14, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

"since all the talk so far has been about how to pay for the garage using parking revenue alone."

No. from DA's first paragraph:

"Should taxpayers subsidize a parking garage here? "

The topics have been A. Will it pay for itself from parking revenue B. If not, are the externalities positive, and positive enough, to warrant using govt money.

There has been a side discussion of the possibility of externalities to the merchants, and how to capture that (I have suggested via the BID). The problem with the DCUSA comparison is that the sales taxes arguably would have accrued without the garage, since much of the retail traffic there is not auto users.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 14, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

The topics have been A. Will it pay for itself from parking revenue B. If not, are the externalities positive, and positive enough, to warrant using govt money.

Well, I'm not even a proponent of a garage in the area (I would rather my tax dollars go to subsidizing new restaurants in the area instead of parking) but even I can't pretend that both of these topics has received an equal amount of attention on the blog.

by Scoot on Apr 14, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B

It would seem the one thing everyone commenting on this story can agree on is that free street parking needs to end. I included that point about the price of parking in most of my postings including the one you with which you disagreed. I am not in favor of the garage. I was only pointing out (as someone who has helped secure financing for major municipal garage projects) that David's cost estimates are completely out of whack. There would be no unusually "substantial" cost to park there. If the metered the street parking and metered the garage, I would probably support the project.

by DupontDem on Apr 14, 2014 4:34 pm • linkreport

The arguments I am reading against having municipal parking in the neighborhood, however, are based in anti-car ideology, rather than anything resembling the reality that most residents of the region experience.

The comments section here in a nutshell.

by Zeus on Apr 14, 2014 4:52 pm • linkreport

I have to laugh when a guy says "Obviously people will want to drive to 14th/U St. so therefore we must prepare to accommodate them." I think an equally reasonable response would be to dissuade them from coming at all. Perhaps it should be more costly and impractical for a suburbanite to drive on down to 14th and U, so they'll find alternative entertainment options that don't involve at least quite as many car trips across the region. Perhaps them coming to 14th and U in the first place is, in and of itself, the less-desirable outcome.

I mean, I want to enjoy the amenities at 14th and U, so you know what I do? I live by a Metro station in the District. It's cheap and easy for me to get to the businesses I support so I can give them and the people they employ more of my time and money.

Anti-car ideology? Yes. I hate cars. It's unreasonable to hate cars and want fewer of them?

by Pennsy on Apr 15, 2014 4:00 am • linkreport

Why is this site always so anti-car? Every single article related to transportation has this mentality.

by Lurker on Apr 15, 2014 9:28 pm • linkreport

@Lurker

Look through this thread and you'll see plenty of people taking the "pro-car" position.

Our entire government is car-centric, that's why there's more money spent on roads and bridges than any other form of transportation in this town and most of the laws in the book are centered around motor vehicles (much to the chagrin of those looking to regulate other transpo modes more, like bicycles).

My question is: since the 14th & U corridor is already filled with residents and visitors and there's already a parking garage at 14th & U (the Reeves Center), where is the demonstrated need for *another* parking garage? Personally, I've lived in this town for 20+ years and have *never* parked in the Reeves Center parking lot; I always use street parking. I'm far from alone. I include looking for parking in my transportation logistics and look at it as a fact of life in the city. And - guess what? - if they build a garage at 14th & S, I won't park there, either.

by Alan on Apr 17, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

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