If you care about having choices in how to get to and enjoy downtown Carrboro, it is very important that you attend the Carrboro Parking Study Kickoff Meeting at Carrboro Elementary school Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
I’ll be there to share a simple message, and I invite you to join me to reinforce it. That message is:
I apologize for going large font on everyone, but really, this is the heart of the matter. People love downtown Carrboro because it is full of life, energy, commerce, culture, food, art, music, protest, you name it. And all of those great things come from PEOPLE. Some of them happen to come downtown in cars, but really, it’s the PEOPLE that make the magic. Cars don’t have wallets and shop in our stores. Cars don’t play in local bands in our venues. Cars don’t wait tables in our restaurants. PEOPLE do. The town staff, fortunately, seem to get this. From a 2013 staff memo sent to the Board of Aldermen:
In, Parking Evaluation, Evaluating Parking Problems, Solutions, Costs, and Benefits, a publication from the Victoria Transport Institute, the author notes, “A problem correctly defined is a problem half solved.” As the Board continues to refine its overall parking objective–from the continuum of creating a greater number of parking spaces, to encouraging more consumers to the downtown, to reducing the number of existing parking spaces, to removing automobiles from the downtown and thereby reducing the Town’s carbon footprint—it may become easier to frame potential policy changes and LUO text amendments.
Citizens need to encourage the Board of Aldermen to continue in this direction described in the staff memo. Here are a few strategic initiatives to consider that could move us in this direction.
- The People Who Drive Downtown Most Often (and Stay the Longest) Represent the Biggest Potential Pool of Parking Spaces to Free Up: Employees If we can identify what barriers keep downtown Carrboro employees from coming to downtown by means other than a car, and address those- we can get all those people to work and free up a lot of parking capacity downtown without adding a single new space. The most obvious example here is that we have 33 restaurants and bars downtown, and while most places finish serving dinner in the 9:30 – 10:30 pm range, the bus service back to most in-town neighborhoods has a final trip leaving downtown before 9 pm. Workers may be able to bus in, but needing to drive home also necessitates driving in, and taking a parking space for the entire dinner shift in downtown.
- Recognize That Not Every Access Strategy Needs to Be Used by Everyone In Order for Everyone to Experience Better Access The more people with cars who sometimes drive to downtown that we can help try walking or biking downtown, the more parking will be available for folks driving in from places where biking, walking, or using transit are not as easy. On some days, those people who can walk or bike may still drive, but working to make sure walking and bike access is assured for those within a closer distance makes it more likely that parking spaces are open for those coming from further away, or those not on a bus line.
- Consider the Power of Many Small Changes Let’s consider a downtown employer with 10 employees, all of whom drive to work every day. Generally speaking, that employer will have a much easier time getting all ten of them to find a way to only drive 4 out of 5 days instead of getting two of them to stop driving downtown altogether. Either approach still reduces this group of ten’s collective demand for downtown parking by 20 percent. I doubt that there is any single strategy that will solve the downtown access issue, but a host of strategies that all temper parking demand by 3% here and 6% there can cumulatively have a big impact.
- Identify the Ways That Parking Pricing Is Superior to Aggressive Towing, and Explain Those Benefits to Residents, Businesses, and Visitors If we charge for parking, and do it in a smart, technology-driven way, we get all of these benefits:
- Gives visitors to downtown more choice in how long they shop
- Costs taxpayers less to enforce than enforcing free 2-hour parking
- Prevents all-day Park & Ride Parking to UNC in town lots
- Makes it possible to find a lot with many open spaces online or by smartphone
- Makes it more likely that visitors to downtown find a space easily
- Reduces cruising for parking which leads to increased congestion and emissions downtown
- Generates potential revenue for improvements that expand bicycle, pedestrian, and bus access to downtown
- Helps generate revenue for businesses with parking when their business is closed
If you want more details about any of the benefits of Parking Performance Pricing, I wrote a detailed post here.
I hope you can attend the meeting Thursday evening- see you there!