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.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Why is the last inclination for elected officials to seek out best practices, to call for high quality parking: university campus planning and parking

Image: decline in percentage of U.S. 16 to 19 year olds holding drivers licenses. Source: Advertising Age.

GGW reports, in "Councilmembers ask UDC for more parking, student limits," that a number of DC City Councilpeople sent a letter to the University of the District of Columbia, in response to concerns expressed by residents, calling on the university to add significantly more parking to the campus and a cap on students.

The scary-a**ed thing about this is one of the people who signed the letter is the chair of the Council Committee that oversees transportation issues.

Why isn't the Council, especially the chair of the Transportation Committee, instead calling on all universities in the city to develop and implement robust transportation management plans designed to increase transit, walking and biking and reduce car use?

The first thing to do would be to require universities to do transportation demand management. And technically, they are required to do that as part of their campus planning process, which is updated every 10 years.

In the UK schools (at all levels) are required to conduct "travel plans," and the Australians (that's where transportation demand management was invented) have a variety of resources on transportation planning for universities.

-- Travel Demand Management at Australian Universities: recognition, contemplation or action?
-- Universities TravelSmart Resource Kit
-- Press release, "Warwick Travel Plan ranked 2nd out of 64 UK universities" and study, Moving Forward: From Travel Plan To Transport Policy, Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth.
-- University Travel Plans, Universities UK

While I believe that in the U.S. most state requirements on university planning are relatively weak on transportation demand management planning, excepting in places like California, Universities have really embraced sustainability planning (e.g., resource webpage, Campus Sustainability Officers, American Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) and so most universities are looking at transportation planning in a more rigorous manner as a result, which is a good thing.

Without knowing the nature of the student and staff population and how they get to work, as well as not having a study of the neighbors claims that students are parking on the local streets (which is unlikely since most residential streets in that area have 2 hour parking limits), combined with the facts that 37% of DC households don't have cars, the University is located on top of the Van Ness red line subway station, that car ownership is declining amongst the young ("Is Digital Revolution Driving Decline in U.S. Car Culture?: Shift Toward Fewer Young Drivers Could Have Repercussions for All Marketers" from Advertising Age), calling on the university to build more parking seems like a fools errand.

From the Ad Age article:

The automobile, once a rite of passage for American youth, is becoming less relevant to a growing number of people under 30…William Draves blames the internet. Mr. Draves, president of Lern, a consulting firm which focuses mainly on higher education, and co-author of “Nine Shift,” maintains that the digital age is reshaping the U.S. and world early in this century, much like the automobile reshaped American life early in the last century…His theory is that almost everything about digital media and technology makes cars less desirable or useful and public transportation a lot more relevant.

I don't understand why the City Council doesn't believe that the city needs a master transportation plan--comparable to what Arlington has--so that various transportation "initiatives" that DC City Council proposes without any study, such as:

1. Tolls on the 14th Street bridge
2. Exemption from parking restrictions for people attending funerals
3 Various proposals about church parking exemptions on Sundays
4. a citizens committee to oversee the Circulator bus (but not a transportation commission)
5. a medallion system for taxes
6. 15 mph speed limits for residential streets
7. designating bus stops crime free zones as a way to increase criminal penalties
8. raising parking meter fees to fund social services
9. various performance parking districts (instead of an overall plan and strategy)

exist in a roughly knowledge-less vacuum. But if we had a plan, that wouldn't allow for City Councilmembers to grandstand and release un-researched proposals...

After 24 years (about) living in DC, this is long past the point where this kind of behavior surprises me, but it's still disconcerting and makes me wonder why we revel in political mediocrity.

I find the city's renewed efforts to push for statehood laughable in the face of rampant political dysfunction and lack of vision on most anything that has to do with the purview of government.

Granted I have high expectations, but shouldn't high expectations be what we demand of our polity?

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