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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services
Proposal for a Huge New Parking Garage in Santa Cruz
The City of Santa Cruz is proposing to build a new five-level parking garage above a new relocated city library on the parking lot bordered by Lincoln, Cedar and Cathcart Streets, where the Farmer's Market currently meets. We strongly believe that the City should implement a Commuter Benefits Program first, before it considers the construction of a much more costly garage.
[ The City is proposing to build this new five-level parking garage, and to move the city library into it. It would be built on the parking lot between Lincoln and Cathcart streets, where the Farmer's Market now takes place. ]
The Campaign for Sensible Transportation is urging the City to follow the recommendations of its parking consultants: Offer incentives to people who work downtown to get to work on bus, carpool, bicycle and walking.
This is a less costly and more environmentally sound way to increase customer parking than building another garage. Commuter Benefits Programs have demonstrated remarkable success in several Bay Area communities, and are easily implemented.
Click here to sign our petition!
These Commuter Benefits could include bus passes, credit at bike stores, discounted parking for carpools, and cash rewards for people who work downtown and choose not to park downtown.
Continue reading for our detailed analysis of why we should not build another garage, including excellent references on what a Downtown Commuter Benefits program might mean.
(This analysis was updated on March 6, 2017.)
The Campaign for Sensible Transportation
Rick Longinotti, Chair
Rick [at] SensibleTransportation.org
To: Downtown Business Owners, Employees, and Other Interested Persons
Re: Addressing Parking Demand in Downtown Santa Cruz
The City has proposed building a new 5-level parking garage above a new library on the lot at Cedar/Cathcart where the Farmers’ Market meets. The Campaign for Sensible Transportation is urging the City to follow the recommendations of its parking consultants: offer incentives to people who work downtown to get to work on bus, carpool, bicycle and walking. This is a less costly and more environmentally sound way to increase customer parking than building another garage.
These commuter incentives could include bus passes, credit at bike stores, discounted parking for carpools, and cash rewards for people who work downtown who choose not to park downtown. Stanford used these “Transportation Demand Management” tools to prevent additional car trips to campus during a time when the campus grew by 5000 people.
1. Is there a parking shortage downtown?
The City garages are getting close to capacity mainly on weekday afternoons. A recent City memo reports, “Occupancies at Locust Garage ranged from 90% to 100% between noon and 4pm this last week. The garage was closed on 4 of the 5 weekdays because it had reached capacity... Permit holders accounted for 60% of parked vehicles on weekdays between noon and 4pm and 30% of the parked vehicles on weekends.” The fact that there is such a high percentage of permit holders (mostly working commuters) creates an opportunity to solve the shortage using commuter incentives.
2. Why not build another garage?
Building new parking garages is very expensive. Parking experts from three different agencies presented to a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Downtown Commission on Oct 15, 2015. They each recommended that the City implement measures to reduce parking demand before considering a large investment in a new garage. Janis Rhodes noted that new parking structures don’t take in enough additional revenue to pay for themselves, “No agency will make enough on user fees to pay for that [garage] space....We’ve become very conservative, maximizing existing inventories before stepping into the arena of financing new resources.”
3. Why wouldn’t the new garage pay for itself?
The City estimates that the proposed garage would cost $33-$37 million.
Monthly debt service ($33 million at 5% for 30 yrs) = $177,150
Est. monthly maintenance and admin costs = $54,000
Total monthly expense = $231,000
The new garage expenses would raise the total expenses of the Downtown Parking District by 75%. To break even, the new garage would need to pull in an additional 75% in parking revenue, assuming parking revenue elsewhere in the District remains the same. That’s physically impossible, given that the new garage would increase parking capacity downtown by 17%. And increasing capacity is no guarantee that there will be any increase in parking demand. Downtown parking demand may even drop in the short run due to higher parking rates necessitated by the new garage. And in the long run, there are predictions that parking demand will drop with the advent of driverless cars.
4. If the new garage won’t pay for itself, how will it be subsidized?
The Downtown Parking District has two sources of revenue to pay the 30 year debt and expenses on a new garage: parking fees (including monthly permit fees) and “deficiency fees”, paid by businesses that do not supply their own parking. In order to reduce subsidies for parking, it would make sense to lower or eliminate deficiency fees. However, with the burden of a new garage expense, there will be economic pressure to raise or at least maintain deficiency fees.
5. How would Commuter Benefits work?
The purpose of the Commuter Benefits program is to incentivize a portion of people who work downtown to switch commute modes. We estimate that these incentives would cost the Parking District under $60,000 per month in order to influence 500 workers not to park downtown. This is roughly one fourth of the monthly cost of a new garage with 490 net new parking spaces.
We propose that the City’s Downtown Parking District purchase bus passes for all employees downtown. This would be modeled after the EcoPass program in Boulder, which supplies no-cost bus passes to 8300 employees of 1200 businesses Downtown Boulder. All employees of businesses in Downtown Boulder are enrolled.
METRO is in the process of preparing a cost estimate for such a program that will be available in the next few months.
Bike lockers; Credit for bike purchase and repair
We know from a survey of over 500 people who work downtown that about half live within three miles of downtown. More of these people would commute by bicycle if they know that their bicycle could be parked securely. Bike store credit could inspire some people to get a bike or fix up that bike in the yard. Bike sharing and Zip Car credit could enable day trips for workers who don’t commute by car.
Cash rewards for not parking
At Stanford University, members of the Commuters Club who pledge not to drive to campus receive $300 per year.
Discounted deficiency fees for businesses
Businesses have a powerful influence to change the culture about how people get to work. Those businesses that are successful in inspiring a shift in commute habits should be rewarded with lower parking deficiency fees.
6. What about remote parking lots?
The City reports that it contacted people on the waiting list for parking permits and offered permits at the Holy Cross Church parking lot. Less than 10 people indicated interest. This weak expression of interest indicates that people prefer other options than walking the additional .3 miles to get to Pacific Ave. Nevertheless, remote parking lots remain a possible resource for the downtown workforce.
7. What about the competition between holders of monthly parking permits and customer parking?
We know from the City’s occupancy statistics that garages that are near capacity have around 60% occupancy by permit holders. The City has sold 1831 parking permits, which represents 62% of its 2916 total parking spaces.
The problem of commuter parking competing with customer parking was anticipated by the City’s Master Transportation Study (2003). That study assumed that customer parking is the top priority for available space. It recommended freezing the number of parking permits sold, along with implementing incentives for workers downtown to use alternative modes of commute. At the time there were 1430 permits sold. Since that time the City has increased the number of permits sold by 400.
There is currently a 500-person waiting list to purchase parking permits. The City estimates that the wait list is 13 months long, indicating a high turnover in parking permits. In a free market, the price of parking permits would go up until the demand drops to equal the available supply. However, letting the market determine the price of permits would privilege higher-paid workers over low-paid workers.
It is self-evident that the Downtown Parking District cannot afford to build new garage spaces costing $475/month per space for 30 years, and then sell permits for those spaces at the current cost of $32-$37 per month. Stakeholders need to be involved in devising a fair way to allocate scarce existing spaces. As an alternative to market pricing of permits, a lottery or a needs-based system could be explored.
The first thing that needs to be done is for the City to follow the advice of the parking consultants and provide incentives to the downtown workforce to use alternative commute modes. The consultants recommended that these incentives be implemented before a reliable evaluation can be made of the demand for new parking capacity.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss this.
Thanks for your attention.
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1. See the video of this meeting at http://www.communitytv.org/watch/government-demand/
2. Assumes a 17% increase in maintenance and admin expenses of the Parking District.
3. Average annual Parking District expenses 2008-2016 = $3.66 million. Annual debt and overhead for new garage = $2.78 million
4. See articles in Mother Jones and SF Chronicle:
There are four times as many parking spaces as cars in America.
The average automobile spends 95% of its time sitting in place.
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