Some Of Save Our Downtown’s Concerns Relative To Downtown Parking and Traffic - Allan Cooper, Secretary Save Our Downtown
Our downtown streets should become greenways or linear parks that can be lined with "placemaking," wind-buffered and/or noise-buffered mini-parks. These mini-parks could accommodate water features, lending libraries, fitness equipment, picnic tables, game tables, and kids' play areas.
As temperatures increase due to climate change, more shade- providing trees must be planted in our city. Unique designs could also be introduced to accommodate public art installations, information kiosks, weather-protected transit stops, and lunch wagons located at regular intervals. In the final analysis, every type of magnet to attract both residents and visitors must be explored in order to inject life back into the centers of our cities.
So the question will arise where do we put on-street parking? Of course there should be preserved a modicum of short term stop-and-shop and loading/unloading on-street parking spaces. However, we believe that public shuttle transit between downtown and outlying parking structures is the only logical answer. This shuttle transit will insure that these parking structures can be placed further outside of downtown (i.e., out near the City limits) where land values will not be as high as in the downtown core and where large, monolithic structures will not disrupt the historical, small town scale of our downtown.
Overflow employee and customer parking in adjoining residential neighborhoods should be discouraged by virtue of setting up parking zones reserved only for the residents. This is particularly a problem for those residents living in or near Pacific Street and in the Old Town Neighborhood.
There should be assigned a maximum number of dining parklets located on any given street downtown to make room for short term stop and shop and/or loading zone parking.
Parking Meter Fees and Penalties
One of our most recent concerns has been that instead of doubling the fees for parking downtown, the City should look elsewhere for revenues to underwrite the expense of new parking structures. For example, why don't we increase parking in-lieu fees for new downtown developments as was suggested in Table A.2 “Approved Parking Management and Demand Reduction Programs”: “Increase the in lieu parking fee charged to new development to better reflect the cost of downtown parking”. Save Our Downtown is therefore recommending increasing the in lieu parking fees to cover a larger share of the construction cost of parking garages. It should be noted that our in lieu parking fee requirement is significantly less than in most other cities.
Our objection to across the board parking reductions City wide in anticipation of predicted modal shifts in transportation is as follows: In an Uber and Lyft study of nine major cities, Bruce Schaller (author of the influential study “Unsustainable?”) discovered that these new services “aren’t really causing people to drive less; they’re pulling passengers who otherwise would walk, take the bus or just stay home." So the argument that we will need less parking once we begin to rely more on non-personal or autonomous cars is a myth. This modal shift in transportation will actually increase, not decrease, our traffic and parking demands. In fact, "the TNC’s (i.e., online-enabled platforms to connect passengers with drivers) have caused a 94 million-mile spurt in car driving in the city of Seattle” and they will ultimately make our urban core a less desirable place to live if we do not accommodate this increase through more parking facilities.
According To A University Of Adelaide Study, When riders switch to autonomous vehicles, there will be an adverse impact on public transport. With most commuters not interested in ride sharing, this could increase peak period vehicle flows, which is likely to increase traffic congestion over the next 30years or so. Therefore there will be a rapidly increasing demand for more car parking. Urban sprawl will be exacerbated - not mitigated - by the arrival of the autonomous vehicle, the electric car along with remote work because both will make long commutes, as well as vacation and shopping trips safer, more enjoyable and more affordable.
We are opposed to the one-size-fits-all parking reductions in The Zoning Regulation Parking Options/Exceptions found in Table 1. These parking reductions should not apply to all new development.
It is our belief that for the reasons stated above, all hospitality and commercial development as well as multi generational housing should be exempted from these parking provisions. Save Our Downtown is also urging the city to exempt the C-D Zone from these proposed parking reductions. It is unlikely that 50% of the tourists and commuters arriving daily in the Downtown Core will not be using some form of personalized transportation. Imposing this “one size fits all” parking standard onto the C-D Zone will result in discouraging tourism, hurt our local economy and will force commuters to park in adjoining office or residential zones. We do, however, support project specific parking studies as a requisite part of proposed parking reductions whenever they are deemed appropriate.
Public Transit Improvements
There should be more funding for downtown transit improvements using a residential transit fee assessed to downtown housing units.
Purchase of Public Parking Lots
We think the City should purchase a lot near the Wells Fargo bank. Parking garages recoup their cost usually within 5-7 years which should include the City’s purchase of the lot. This payback period is more than acceptable. Additional revenue generation for the City would of course come from the visitor spending downtown that such a garage would generate. The City has been evaluating the potential to use portions of City-owned parking lots and structures for residents’ parking. Save Our Downtown advises that this be done sparingly as the net result could be insufficient parking for tourists, out-of-town employees and shoppers.
Park & Ride Lots
The 2011 Access & Parking Management Plan states under 2.10: “The City will work to consider park-and-ride lots that serve the commute need of commercial core employees. The City will evaluate outlying parking lots for their commercial core employees with a shuttle connecting these lot with the core”.
There is currently only one park and ride lot within the City limits of San Luis Obispo and that is the Calle Joaquin Park and Ride Lot with a capacity of 31 car spaces and 2 motorcycles. After 11 years, why aren’t there more?
Solution for Congested Truck Traffic and Commercial Parking Zones
2011 Access and Parking Management Plan:
1.10 “If congestion levels in the commercial core exceed standards set by the Circulation Element the City will adopt an ordinance that limits times for commercial deliveries.”
However in the absence of such an ordinance the Municipal Code states the following (though there is evidence that this code is not enforced):
SLO Municipal Code Chapter 10.48 identifies the vehicles prohibited in central traffic district at certain times of day, types of commercial vehicles operating in the city, the routes on which they operate, where they can park, and measures to facilitate loading and unloading of goods. SLO limits the hours of truck access to 6 P.M. to 9 A.M. Why not extend these hours to later than 6 P.M. so that truck congestion and noise doesn’t intrude on night-time (particularly sidewalk) dining? City laws permit trucks to be no more than 35 feet for single unit vehicles and 55 feet in overall length for multi-unit vehicles, but, the national industry standard is now 73 1⁄2 feet in length.
Despite city regulations, larger trucks are still regularly observed on city streets. The volume of freight vehicles operating within city boundaries is steadily increasing, which contributes to road congestion, especially in urban areas with a parking deficit. Emerging delivery methods are on pace to transform the last-mile delivery network into a cleaner, safer, and more efficient freight system. Freight Mode Shift supports alternative modes for last-mile goods transport (box trucks, cargo bikes, and drones) so long as there are additional loading zones. After a tractor trailer is sorted at the local distribution warehouse, the merchandise is loaded onto smaller delivery trucks and brought to the retail and commercial areas. The growth in small intercity trucks can be the result of a variety of industry and economic shifts over the last decade, including:
1) Increase in e-commerce and home deliveries made by smaller parcel delivery trucks to residential addresses.
2) Companies selecting single unit trucks or downsizing fleets to avoid regulations requiring that drivers must have Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) (there is a national shortage of CDL holders)
3) Increase in construction activity in the city, which predominately utilizes single unit trucks to remove waste and deliver building materials to construction sites.
Addressing Climate Change
Los Angeles is painting their roads white to cool the City down. Why not apply this principle to surface parking lots and parking garage roof tops?
Why not install solar panel arrays over surface parking lots and on parking garage roof tops? This will provide the double advantage of shading and protecting the cars while generating clean energy.
Charging stations should be installed in all existing and new parking structures.
Existing surface lots should be resurfaced with permeable pavers or porous concrete.
Extensive planting of native plants and the provision of bioswales should be incorporated into surface lots and parking garages.
In the event that a parking garage is retired, adaptive reuse design features should allow this conversion into an office building or warehouse without requiring demolition. An automated parking garage has no need for sloping floors or ramps. It involves less driving and less light is needed. All that is needed for adaptive reuse is the removal (in tact) of the automated parking racks.
Downtown parking should be incentivized (i.e., reduced meter fees) for solar, hydrogen or battery powered cars. Many point to the high non-renewable energy costs of manufacturing these cars. However, solar, hydrogen or battery powered cars can be manufactured using the power of water. For example the BMW Group currently manufactures electric cars using regional green electricity. This makes this new generation of cars a greener alternative to gas powered cars.
Predicting Future Car Parking Supply
Predicating future car parking supply (see Table 1 “Zoning Regulation Parking Options/Exceptions”) on the targeted mode split of 50% auto trip usage, 20% bicycle trip usage, 18% walking (or motorcycle, golf cart, Segway, scooter or skateboard usage) and 12% transit usage is unrealistic and unattainable. Why? This targeted mode split can only be achieved by making the following ridiculous assumptions:
All residents (assume they are all ambulatory... and they are not) relying on bicycles, walking or public transit to get around (not cars):
all 6,700 adult residents holding jobs in San Luis Obispo, all 14,300 Cal Poly and Cuesta College students living off campus and in San Luis Obispo
3,000 residents employed as faculty and staff at Cal Poly
1,870 residents employed at the CMC
929 residents employed as faculty and staff at Cuesta College
all of the remaining 6,231 residents who are neither college students nor those who work in SLO (excluding residents with mobility issues, pre schoolers and those working in outlying communities)
The sum total for this group is 33,030.
There is a transient (or non-resident) population who must continue to rely on automobile usage:
the 24,300 workers (source: SLOCOG) commuting daily into SLO from outlying communities
the 2,700 transient occupants who will be spending a night or two in a motel or hotel in SLO (which will increase to 3,623 overnight visitors once the 14 hotels in our pipeline are completed)
800+ more transients staying in Airbnb’s,
the approximately 1,100 out-of-town shoppers and day visitors,
the 3,950 Cal Poly and Cuesta College students living in outlying communities (ref: CPSU Masterplan) There are residents who must continue to rely on automobile usage:
the 5,700 residents 65 years of age or older who may have mobility issues due to age or infirmity,
the 1,570 pre-school children (who are too young to ride bicycles)
an unknown number of residents who are employed in outlying communities (not including Cal Poly, CMC and Cuesta College employees)
The sum total for this group is 40,120.
So the above roughly approximates a 45-55 split. However, it is a fact that within the State of California, 36% of those who are employed have some kind of disability. Of those, 12.5% have an ambulatory, hearing or vision disability which may prevent them from using public transit, walking or riding a bike.This would whittle down the employed population relying on bicycles, walking or public transit by 1,200.
Then consider that all of the residents employed at Cal Poly (3,214), the Men’s Colony (1,800) and Cuesta College (687) have little incentive to abandon their cars when they have ample parking available to them at their places of employment. This would whittle down the employed population relying on bicycles, walking or public transit by 5,701. Once these employees are using their cars for work, they will naturally be inclined to use them for shopping, doctor’s appointments, etc. as well.