Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Parking and the City of Langley's Master Transportation Plan

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably gather that I’m not a big fan of surface parking lots. I would rather see parking provided underground or in a parking structure with ground level retail. Surface parking lots destroy the walkability of our communities as they spread out businesses, workplaces, and our homes. This results in congestion due to increased automobile use, a degradation of the environment, and the promotion of a lifestyle that is making us unhealthy which increases the cost of providing health care.

In fact the City of Langley's own Master Transportation Plan notes that “experience has shown that areas with an abundance of parking or with free parking tend to encourage solo travel by automobile.” Parking for vehicles can have more of an impact on travel choice than roads themselves. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the City's Master Transportation Plan spends a considerable amount of time talking about bicycling parking and end-of-trip facilities to encourage cycling.

The City’s current Master Transportation Plan also spend a great deal of time talking about adding, removing, and relocating on-street parking, but it misses the mark as it doesn't address the economic, environmental, and social benefits that comes from managing on-street parking, and how on-street parking influences off-street (surface parking lots, underground, parkade) parking requirements. This is interesting as the Plan notes that “Langley is characterized by an abundance of free, unlimited-use parking, even in the downtown area” and that “in areas near transit services or within walking proximity of employment and shopping areas, the City may wish to decrease parking requirements for new or existing sites.” The reason we have minimum off-street parking requirements is because cities are concerned that without minimum-requirements, parking will be chaos on the street. Maybe that lack of a clear on-street parking policy in the Master Transportation, and the City's concern with parking chaos, is why to-date the City of Langley has not reduce minimum parking requirements in the City’s Downtown Core, even though it is on the frequent transit network.

On-street parking should be variably priced to ensure that there are always a few free parking spaces available in any give block. Research shows that when on-street parking is managed to ensure a few space are free in each block, it will encourage more shoppers to come to an area. Pricing on-street parking persuades long-term parkers like employees and commuters who use prime on-street parking to find other parking or travel arrangements. If you are interested in knowing more about this, I suggest you read the book “The High Cost of Free Parking”, and look at the case study about how the once-dying Old Passadena in California turned itself around with the help of managed on-street parking.

Once on-street parking is managed, cities then have the opportunity to reevaluate minimum off-street parking requirements, and make chances that will promote business growth and support walkable community design.

The City of Langley is currently in the process of updating its Master Transportation Plan. The updating of the plan is a great opportunity to include specific parking policies that will help the City of Langley become a walkable, compact community that will encourage business to locate in its Downtown Core.

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