Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

DC's zoning rewrite is likely to crash and burn: part 3 (my response to Brad's email)

Proposals for changes in parking requirements are the next generation of changes to the zoning code

I'm not so up on the various iterations of the zoning code (since 1956) to know the detail of what we might call the gradual erosion over the years of the amount of parking actually required.

I can try to find this out though, it would be useful.

The counter to what she said is that current conditions require further diminiuation of the amount.

I have another blog entry where I write how DC has done a piss poor job of gathering evidence to support the position for reduced parking requirements.

In the city, residents of multiunit buildings proximate to transit stations use transit more than they drive

I also mentioned in the original email about the traffic study which was done for the proposed building on Spring Place NW, which abuts the railroad tracks at Takoma Metro Station, but will require a bit more than one block's walk to the station, which also collected data on the Gables apartment building on Blair Road, which requires a one block walk to the station. I was amazed at how only about 25% of daily trips during rush periods are via car, which is a huge confirmation of the DCOP thesis, even in areas outside of the core but proximate to transit.

Problems with Marylanders parking on the border streets result from other policies, not parking requirements in those buildings

The example of the apartment building on the border of DC and Maryland has nothing to do with DC regulations about providing parking within multiunit buildings. It's a problem that results from intricacies concerning the borders.

This is an issue all along Western, Eastern, and presumably Southern Avenues. I know about it on Eastern Ave. both near Riggs Road and by Mt. Rainier, where I lived briefly. DC doesn't post parking zone signs on the far side of the street, because on the far side of the street, even though the street is in DC, the housing units abutting the street are in Maryland.

I think that DC should set up a different permitting process so that those Marylanders can legally park on the border, on the DC street, but with having to pay for the privilege. It's a completely different issue that has no bearing or relevance on the issue of parking minimums and the zoning rewrite.

Yes, people will try to park on the street, mostly because street spaces aren't priced with regard to the market

There is no question that some people choosing to live in a building with limited parking will try to park on the street. ESPECIALLY when the price for an Residential Parking Permit is so artificially below the market.

It's all about "choice architecture"

But the major point is the "choice architecture" issue. Or as Fred Kent of Project for Public Spaces says, "when you design cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. When you design cities for people and places, you get people and places."

SO if we have regulations that privilege and encourage driving, people will drive. (I sometimes call the convenience "car heroin" and I try to avoid situations where I might succumb.) As I made the point, DC is incapable of increasing street capacity for traffic and parking. Granted we can increase capacity for parking, off street. That's what people are up in arms about. They want more parking.

Especially because the capacity of the road network is fixed and can't be increased

But if we increase this capacity to have and store cars, recognizing that the capacity of the street network is fixed, then you have more people attempting to use this fixed resource, leading to significantly worse congestion on the city's streets.

More car usage in the city reduces livability and quality of life for everyone

It won't bother me personally IN TERMS OF MOBILITY. I bicycle and use transit (and the occasional car share). BUT BUT BUT BUT increased traffic has deleterious impacts on the quality of life on the street and in our neighborhoods. I already see this every day, at various chokepoints in the system, which I can outspan by riding on the right, with an occasion jump onto the sidewalk, and aided by a bit more liberal attitude toward stop signs and red lights (provided that there is no oncoming traffic).

For example, Blair Road and North Capitol. These streets are primarily used for through traffic into and out of the city. But there is so much traffic that the neighborhoods are negatively impacted. Who wants to walk along Blair or North Capitol? (Try riding a bike on these roads, it can be incredibly uncomfortable.) Especially during rush hour.

It's why I've come to favor putting in a tunnel, tolled, for through traffic. It's not that I want to encourage driving, but I recognize many people will continue to do it, and the impact on the abutting neighborhoods is considerable and negative, so now I propose the tunnel. (I won't bore you with the engineering details.) Because it's the only way to change the situation.

Brentwood Shopping Center, DCSo policy should work to discourage more people to use cars in the city. Some people call this "expanding choice."

 I prefer to think of it as structuring our policy making system around optimal decision making concerning transportation, mobility, and choice of modes--some modes, walking, biking, and transit specifically--are far better choices for the city than is automobility. That should be recognized.

The thing is that the city is inconsistent about this. E.g., instead of adopting suburban design for the Brentwood redevelopment, they should have made it urban. But the changes proposed in the zoning rewrite are steps in the right direction.

A campaign by proponents is required

My sense is that the government proponents of zoning change are going to get their clocked cleaned, because they are really really bad at counter-campaigning and at articulating the advantages.

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At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Carin said...

Richard, this brings up something I've been wondering throughout this process. When residents scream "parking shortage" does anybody, ever, study what the situation really is with onstreet parking and how many people on these residential streets also have off-street spaces? Has the city done this? (I hesitate even to ask.) Highly unscientific, I know, but I'm dying to know if there's better data out there.

I keep hearing how there's a parking shortage in my neighborhood, Shepherd Park, which will allegedly be made worse with zoning changes and coming development. Yet when I move about the neighborhood I see nothing but empty stretches of street, never more than half full of parked cars. I was curious enough that I did a windshield survey during Friday evening rush hour a couple of weeks ago of the few blocks just south of the District line, in the north end of Shepherd Park. The results - acres of available street parking - are in this Flickr set.

At 7:11 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Good question. More later.


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