How to repurpose parking garages that are becoming increasingly obsolete

There are far more parking spaces in America than there are cars. The total is so high, in fact, that there are even more than double the number of parking spaces in America than there are people. There is a parking glut, not a shortage, and this problem is getting worse as more and more people are choosing not to drive at all or at the very least drive less.

What this means is that parking garages need to be designed in a way that will allow them to be repurposed for other uses. In Cincinnati, this is playing out at the new dunnhumbyUSA Centre where its garage is being designed so that office space can be built in its place in the future. All parking garages, however, should be designed in such a way. More from NextCity about how leaders in Atlanta are working toward just that:

On Wednesday the school unveiled SCADpad, a series of three micro-housing units in a parking garage near its Midtown Atlanta campus. The idea is a novel yet simple one: Repurpose underused parking garages — about 40,000 parking structures in the U.S. operate at half capacity, according to the Urban Land Institute — for housing in dense areas that need it. The 135-square-foot micro-apartments each take up one parking space, with an additional space for use as a “terrace” (seriously!), and were designed by 75 current SCAD students, 37 alumni and 12 professors. A dozen students will move into the apartments on April 15.

“Think about it,” Sottile said. “Many of these 20th-century parking structures are on their way toward obsolescence, and we’re asking questions about how those can be reinvented for neighborhoods. There’s also a historic preservation side of this. And we want to see how can we get them back into higher usage.”

EDITORIAL: Eight-Point Plan for Fixing Cincinnati’s Broken Parking System

Cincinnati Parking Meter

Broken and malfunctioning meters plague Cincinnati’s parking system. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

We are continuing to look at opportunities inside City Hall that could help alleviate Cincinnati’s budget and pension liabilities, while also maintaining and improving service delivery.

In addition to the waste collection reforms that include a shift to a Pay As You Throw system, we will be making other specific policy recommendations that we feel will improve the quality of service delivery while also improving the City’s finances – ultimately working toward a long-term, structurally balanced budget.

Back in June 2010, UrbanCincy examined the finances of the city’s parking system. In this analysis, and comparison with cities from around the country, we discovered a broken system that was not performing the functions it needed to perform, and was not financially solvent.

As a result, we recommended a seven-year lease of all 5,700 of the city’s on-street parking meters. We estimated that such a deal could yield just over $3 million in annual payments, while also ridding the city of the associated financial liabilities. We did not estimate what an upfront payment could be due to the infinite number of variables that could affect that.

While much has changed politically since that time, the facts remain the same. Cincinnati’s parking system is broken, and is in need of immediate upgrades and reforms.

One of the first actions by the newly elected Mayor John Cranley (D), however, was to halt the signed Parking Lease & Modernization agreement, executed by former City Manager Milton Dohoney, which was structured to solve these exact problems. Under that deal the City would have leased four parking garages, one parking lot and all of the City’s on-street parking meters to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority.

The Port then agreed to work with Xerox to manage the system and implement comprehensive upgrades to the deteriorating and outdated system. This would have included electronic parking meters that accept credit cards, real-time parking availability data systems and the rehabilitation of existing lots and garages.

The deal would have also provided the City of Cincinnati with an upfront payment of $85 million, generated approximately $3 million in annual installment payments over the life of the agreement, and guaranteed approximately $98 million in capital investments into the system. For better or worse, that agreement has been jeopardized and we are essentially back at square one.

So where and what exactly is square one?

The City has been experiencing declining revenues from its parking assets for several years now. Revenue collections peaked years ago, but have been declining recently due to inadequate enforcement and the parking system’s poor state of repair. These assets require constant and expensive maintenance and upgrades, so virtually all of the money generated by the Parking System is spent maintaining the Parking System.

This is important. The Parking System does not generate any excess revenue for the city to use on other basic services.

In most years the Parking System is revenue neutral, meaning that the revenues it generates cover its expenses. This is acceptable, unless you are deferring maintenance costs in order to make the numbers match. This has been the case in Cincinnati for years, and has left the Parking System in terrible condition.

The situation has gotten worse in recent years as council has worked to balance the budget without laying off employees. In both 2010 and 2011, the city spent considerably more on the Parking System than it collected in an effort to keep it up to snuff. We are talking $3.6 million more in 2010 and $1.1 million more in 2011. This stopped in 2012 when the city cut its annual investments in the Parking System by several million dollars.

Cincinnati's Broken Parking System

For reference, investments in the Parking System today are approximately 38% lower than they were when the City invested $13.3 million into the Parking System in 2010. Over that same period, the parking fund balance has dropped from $12.5 million to $7.8 million.

Simply put: revenues are down, maintenance is being deferred and the parking fund is being depleted. This is not sustainable.

The recent proposal from the Cranley Administration, which was immediately and thoroughly rejected by just about everyone except five council members, does not address what the problems are, and therefore does not propose appropriate solutions for those problems.

The situation and trajectory is dire and UrbanCincy recommends that the City of Cincinnati move forward with upgrades to its Parking System immediately. Absent the previously agreed upon Parking Lease & Modernization deal or some other public-private partnership; here is how we suggest doing so:

  1. Issue bonds to upgrade all parking meters in the city to use the latest electronic payment collection and occupancy tracking technology. This would include pay-by-phone capabilities.
  2. Utilize the new technology to implement variable pricing structures that reflect real-time market demand. If there is a Bengals game downtown and meters near the stadium are packed, then the rates on those meters would increase, while meters further away would maintain lower rates. In neighborhood business districts the same would be true. When demand is high so should be prices. When demand is low, prices should drop accordingly to make it a more attractive option for those visiting our neighborhood business districts.
  3. Release a new application, website and text alert system that notifies drivers of parking space availability and informs them of the associated rates.
  4. Sell the city-owned parking lot at Third Street and Central Avenue so that it can be repurposed into a tax-producing property.
  5. Create a special lease agreement for city-owned parking garages and lots, so that the separate authority could manage advertising at these locations. The Ohio Revised Code currently does not grant cities authority to sell advertising in such a manner, but not allowing for advertisements is unnecessarily cutting off much-needed revenue. Let’s get creative so that we can maximize revenues without burdening our residents, businesses or visitors.
  6. Tear down the Garfield Garage, which is in greatest need of repair, and market the site to developers interested in building on it. Such a development agreement could include the provision of the same or greater number of parking spaces to be replaced – similar to the deal signed for the new residential tower to be built at Fourth and Race Streets in the place of the Pogue’s Garage. This will free the city from a major capital expense that would further deplete the parking fund in the near future.
  7. Tear down the Seventh & Sycamore Garage, which is the only thing blocking the construction of a $14.2 million, 115-room hotel and 725-space garage from being built in its place. The existing 450-space garage is also in poor condition and its removal would be another major liability coming off the City’s books.
  8. Conduct a citywide study to determine appropriate adjustments to the hours of operation for on-street parking meters on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level.

Following through on these eight recommendations will allow the city to maintain ownership and control of its Parking System while also allowing it to make the necessary upgrades and improve the balance sheets for this portion of the budget. These changes will make the Parking System a revenue generating asset not just in rhetoric, but in reality.

The increased revenues will allow for the City to replenish the parking fund, make its upgrades and take additional revenue and use it to support other essential but non-revenue generating public services.

Month in Review – August 2013

During the month of August, UrbanCincy covered several new developments and events in the city’s urban core. We also published two editorials that generated much response from our readers and the local community. Our  top 5 most popular stories for August 2013 were:

    1. Final Designs Revealed for $125M Dunnhumby Centre Tower
      The long-awaited renderings for the Dunnhumby Centre at Fifth and Race have been released.
    2. It’s Time to Consolidate Local Governments in Hamilton County
      This editorial by Randy Simes has generated over 100 comments on UrbanCincy. Randy was also invited onto 700 WLW to discuss the idea with Scott Sloan, and the Cincinnati Business Courier also provided their own analysis of the idea.
    3. Over-the-Rhine Impresses More Than 30,000 Spectators for LumenoCity
      Paige Malott and John Yung provide photos from the event that attracted over 30,000 visitors to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
    4. Cincinnati Eliminates Center City Parking Requirements, Neighborhoods Next
      Randy Simes analyses the city’s move to deregulate parking within the urban core.
    5. Greg Landsman: Riding the Cincinnati Streetcar to Success
      In this editorial, City Council candidate Greg Landsman explains why he supports the Streetcar and why it should be extended to Uptown.

 

Miami developers are turning away from cars, can Cincinnati be next?

Cincinnati has seen a wealth of private real estate investment over the past decade. The problem, however, is that almost all of that investment is oriented toward those residents and workers using cars to get there. But in Miami, a city known for its flashy cars, a new development is looking to change that mindset. More from The Atlantic:

Miami and cars. They go together like piña and colada, right? Well, maybe so. But one new luxury condo in the heart of downtown is making what is, for this Florida city, a bold move. The building in many ways fits the profile of recent development in Miami’s reviving core: It has 36 stories, 352 units, and 10-foot ceilings.

But as for parking? Zero of that. Not for private motor vehicles, anyway. The Centro, as it’s called, will have a five-car Car2Go auto share station featuring the city-backed service’s distinctive, blue-and-white Smart cars; covered bike parking; and, if Miami gets bike share, maybe one of those stations as well.

The project breaks ground this fall, and the parking-garage-free tower was made possible by city zoning that allows no parking garages in buildings that are close to transit in densely developed areas.

Industry Experts Believe a ‘Parking Revolution’ is Sweeping America

In April of this year, members of the International Parking Institute, the world’s largest association representing the parking industry, surveyed parking professionals to determine trends and gain input on parking and related topics.

The survey results found that a “parking revolution” is taking place in the United States, and that the industry is beginning to embrace a variety of new parking solutions.

“The industry is embracing a variety of new technologies that make it easier for people to find and pay for parking, and for parking authorities to better manage it,” the report stated.

Cities identified as leaders in the movement included San Francisco, Portland, New York City, Seattle, Miami, Houston, Boston, Denver, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Tampa.

Emerging Parking Trends

Cincinnati’s recently approved Parking Modernization & Lease Program appears to apply these top trends by moving toward technologies that improve access control, payment automation, and real-time communication of pricing and availability to user’s mobile devices.

These kinds of features are the new standard being implemented around the country, and are provided by Cincinnati’s lease agreement.

Parking professionals were also asked to identify the ten most progressive municipal parking programs in the United States, with San Francisco’s SFpark named most innovative.

“The SFpark pilot project provides real-time information on parking availability and cost; reduces double parking, circling, and congestion; and improves parking ease and convenience,” the report stated. “A high-caliber data management tool allows the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to make rate-change recommendations, supply real-time data, maintain optimum operational and contractual control, and rigorously evaluate the pilot’s various components.”

Respondents also said that SFpark was particularly bold in requiring city and government employees to pay for parking in order to bolster the program’s credibility before asking voters to consider sweeping changes in parking management.

Of particular interest is SFpark’s on-street rate adjustment policy.

Prior to the changes, rate adjustments were made during the budget-planning process. The goal with the pilot program is to take a demand-based approach in order to achieve parking availability targets in a consistent, simple and transparent manner.

Prior to the program, rates in downtown were $3.50/hour, $3.00/hour in the downtown periphery and $2.00/hour in neighborhood commercial districts, and were operational mostly from 7am to 6pm or 9am to 6pm Monday through Saturday. As part of the pilot program, demand responsive time-of-day pricing is split into three distinct rate periods: 9am to 12pm, 12pm to 3pm, and 3pm to 6pm for 9am to 6pm spaces.

These demand-responsive rate changes are made gradually, no more than once per month, and periodically near the first of the month based on occupancy in the previous month.

In order to maintain at least one parking space per block, 80% space occupancy is desired with rates increased when occupancy is greater than 80%, held constant at 60% to 80% and decreased with less than 60% occupancy on a per-block basis to more effectively redistribute parking demand.

In order to help users from having to cut trips short or risk parking tickets, time limits in the pilot areas were lengthened from 30 minutes/two hours to four hours/no limit.

Cincinnati’s program, meanwhile, will provide for public rate control and expanded hours of operation from 8am to 9pm in the Central Business District and 7am to 9pm in neighborhoods. The plan will also allow for limited $0.25 incremental rate increases, but there does not appear to be provisions for demand responsive time of day pricing, a target on-street block occupancy amount, or lengthened or eliminated time limits.

In addition to new technologies, the report indicates that parking is becoming more than just a place to store cars, and is instead moving towards more integrated forms of transportation planning – something that has also taken place locally through new bicycle parking provisions and parking requirement restructuring.

“Today, parking is about so much more than storing cars,” concluded Shawn Conrad, executive director for the International Parking Institute. “It’s central to the creation of livable, walkable communities. It’s about cars, bikes, mass transit, mobility, and connecting people to places.”