To park, or not to park, that is the question city planners are asking
Parking has recently taken a spotlight in many cities due to rising costs of housing, construction, and the desire to live in walkable urban areas. We often utilize free parking at our favorite locations, but that is really not the case: we pay for this free parking in higher costs of goods, more expensive real estate, and additional travel costs — as sprawl pushes people apart.
Downtown Miami has shown a proclivity for a more walkable and safe community through The Complete Streets project, which is taking place along SW/SE 1st Street between SW 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard. Three travel lanes became a bike lane, a travel lane, and a bus lane. Even with fewer lanes, the time to get from one end to the other of The Complete Street was reduced by 18%, crashes reduced 65%, and bicyclists volume increased 39% during peak hours.
Since the concept has proven to work, the DDA now seeks to create a network of Complete Streets, allowing more people to bike, walk safely in the shade, and removing additional vehicles from the road.
Northeast Third Avenue is somewhat of an anomaly, running only two blocks. For four days in Mid-October, The Avenue 3 initiative transformed street parking into seating areas and mini parklets to serve the many restaurants and pedestrians. While vehicles could pass through, pedestrians were the priority. Photo Courtesy of Ave. 3.
The idea was to create a destination similar to Espanola Way in South Beach, or Giralda Avenue in Coral Gables. This type of design promotes not only being outside but enjoying local businesses which in turn create more jobs. Photo Courtesy of Ave. 3.
The Wynwood BID released concepts for the Wynwood Streetscape Masterplan designed by Arquitectonica GEO. It included two Dutch inspired Woonerfs — streets where cars, bikes, and pedestrians share the pavement equally. Literally, Woonerfs is Dutch for “living street.” The ambitious plan adds parklets, a network of pathways, two linear parks, design-guidelines for street trees, and a Wellness Loop that connects the whole neighborhood. They designed landscape as infrastructure through Stormwater planters and Bioswales that capture rainwater to irrigate plants, reducing the stress on the stormwater drainage system, protecting from flood events, and beautifying the neighborhood.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation conducted a study in 2015 showing that some of its trees had a yearly benefit of more than $500.
Last Thursday, December 13, the City of Miami Commission enacted an ordinance to increase the cost of street parking. One dissenting commissioner, Manolo Reyes, argued that the measure would hurt residents and small businesses. But it should have a positive effect as parking spots will turn over more often, bringing in additional people per day who will feel more confident to find a space easily. This ordinance will bring more business and allow people who want less expensive or longer-term parking to use shared garages.
Downtown Miami has the most relaxed parking requirements in the City and offers thousands of unused parking spaces and countless more being unused for portions of the day. Yet, developments both under construction and planned include thousands of additional parking spaces. All this additional parking construction has significant costs to end users and affects the way we live and occupy our built environment.
Shared garages in Wynwood and the Design District are already having a positive effect, and those that are under construction have higher ceilings to allow them to convert to other uses in the future. Additionally, shared garages allow the urban fabric to maintain a human scale. Lots that previously were too small for projects because of parking constraints can become infill buildings, and commercial rent, residential rent, costs of goods, and parking costs are all reduced.
The solution is not to eliminate parking all together, but to understand the needs of an area and build efficient cities that contain fewer unused parking spaces and more of everything else. Each of these projects is a step toward Smart Mobility. Still, Miami needs a comprehensive study of its current parking inventory for each of the neighborhoods in the Urban Core so City Planners can make well-informed decisions on parking minimums and shared garage standards and create modern guidelines based on the new behaviors of people provoked by ridesharing, a future with automated vehicles and our desire to live in walkable neighborhoods. A comprehensive study will also give developers confidence through data to embrace these solutions.
We have the ability and responsibility to shape Miami into an environment we want to live in. The question is: which road will we choose?
Originally publshed for Downtown NEWS on December 14th, 2018.