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 02, 2012

Are developers missing the point on eliminating parking minimums?: it's to promote sustainable transportation modes

The Washington Business Journal has a story, "Downtown parking: Douglas Development bids for major parking reduction at 1000 F," on a request by Douglas Development to develop a downtown building with less automobile parking than is "required," in line with the city's desire (through changes in zoning) to encourage sustainable transportation modes--walking, biking, and transit--and to discourage motor vehicle trips, especially single occupancy vehicle trips.

The point isn't merely to reduce parking for automobiles in a contextless manner.  Parking reductions are supposed to be part of a package of tactics focused on increasing the use of sustainable transportation modes.  (Path dependence of a different sort.)

If you provide less car parking it means that you should provide more bicycle parking, not less.

From the article:

Douglas recently submitted an application to modify its approved planned-unit development for 1000 F St. NW, to drastically reduce the number of below-ground parking spaces at the downtown site. The proposed 97,872-square-foot building, rising to 120 feet, will surround the shuttered Waffle Shop on a collection of Douglas-owned lots.

Instead of building a four-level underground garage, the developer is seeking to build just one, for valet parking only. Instead of 61 parking spaces, 1000 F will feature seven lifts accommodating only 14 vehicles, plus one space reserved for an electric or hybrid vehicle, and 15 bicycle spaces. The approved PUD requires a minimum 45 spaces.

I think that the proposal for 15 bicycle parking spaces for an ≈ 100,000 s.f building is a serious mistake.

Parking requirements for biking in the US still need improvement as they relate to three factors:

Left:  Bicycle Heat Map, Montgomery County.  The darker (red) areas show areas with greater opportunity to capture trips by bicycle.

1.  Opportunity for mode split capture by bicycling for trips to and from work and for trips of 3 miles or less (one way to think about this is with Montgomery County's Bicycle Demand or Heat Map, which "predicts where demand for bike commuting, errands, or other non-recreation trips is greatest. Greater clusters of homes and jobs, proximity to transit, schools, and other community facilities, and connections between activity centers, all lead to greater bicycling demand."

2.  Occupancy or use load generated by the space.  Typically requirements for bike parking are based on square footage or as a percentage of car parking spaces, without performing a deeper analysis of how the space is used and by how many people.

For example, if 10,000 s.f. of space in a school supports 10 classrooms, each with 20 students and a teacher, then parking requirements should be based on the use by 210 people in that 10,000 s.f. of space, not on some general and very loose guideline of 1 space per 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 s.f. of building--plus showers and locker facilities need to be provided for staff.  

Or a 5,000 s.f. restaurant might have 20-30 employees and 150 customers during peak service periods.  Requirements of one or two parking spaces for short term and long term use, based on the 5,000 s.f. size of the restaurant seriously under-supplies parking.  E.g., half or more of the back of the house employees may bike to work.

Typically, bike parking zoning requirements are lagging this kind of nuanced understanding.

3.  Long term mode split targets for trips by bike weighted by location, combined with the occupancy load of the building should determine parking "minimums" for the provision of bike parking.

This relates to the concepts behind the bike demand map.  In Downtown DC and the neighborhoods surrounding it, setting a 20% target for trips by bike is not unreasonable, based on various factors, whereas in outer parts of the city, such as at the future redeveloped Walter Reed site on Georgia Avenue, bike mode split opportunity is likely to be closer to 10% based on population density and topography, among other factors.

- Charter of Brussels: (cities pledging to "set of target of at least 15% for the share of cycling in the modal split of trips for 2020")
Note that DC's Vision for a Sustainable DC calls for 75% of all trips to be made by biking, walking, and transit by 2032.  Currently, work trips are at about 51% for these modes.  To accommodate such shifts, we need to augment bike parking and facilities support requirements (and invest even more in transit) as that is a 50% increase, roughly from the current numbers, for work trips, and probably a comparable or slightly greater increase for nonwork trips.  The trick will be to do this outside of the core of the city, where sustainable transportation mode split is higher than the 51% number already.

DC DOT recently submitted regulations providing for more bike parking than the current zoning, and there are draft regulations floating around for the zoning update that have a more rigorous *(but still not ideal) framework for bike parking.

Anyway, the point is that promoting sustainable transportation objectives, especially downtown, supports the reduction of the provision of parking spaces for motor vehicles.

BUT promoting sustainable transportation downtown simultaneously means upping the provision of bicycle parking, not providing inadequate amounts of it.

How to calculate bicycle parking "need" for an office building in Downtown DC

Anyway, a 100,000 s.f. building will support 400 employees at 250 s.f. per employee and 500 employees at 200 s.f. per employee.  Typically the number used is 250/s.f./employee, but this number is starting to shrink.  We can split the difference as 225/s.f./employee, which would be a building load of 445 employees.

Above: Saris stack rack, available from BicyclePASS (me!).  These racks, which are hydraulic, are a lot easier to use than racks where you have to lift the bike up to access top level spaces on the rack.  Double level racks are a good way to maximize the provision of bike parking.  Access control systems allow restrictions on access to the room/cage to authorized users only, limiting the opportunity for theft.

At a 20% mode split target for biking, that would be 85 biking spaces necessary to support employee trips to work by bike.  Provision for short term parking for visitors would be in addition to this requirement.  Plus the parking should be secure, protected from the elements, with access control, complemented ideally by lockers, changing areas, and showers.  (Although I argue that showers could be provided on a multi-building rather than a building-by-building basis.)

You might argue for a 10% or 15% mode split target, because depending on the tenant mix, some buildings have as much as 80% mode split for transit (Federal workers get transit passes if they so desire, although they can also get parking benefits, which are higher).  That would drop the parking target for bicycling to 43 or 65 spaces depending on the target chosen.

Anyway, the building should be providing either 43 bike parking spaces at a 10% mode target, 65 spaces at a 15% mode target, and 85 spaces at a 20% mode target, presuming a 100,000 s.f. building and 225/s.f./employee.  (The exact numbers would be slightly less, because the building is slightly smaller than 100,000 s.f.).

This may well be something I submit comments on/testimony with regard to the matter before the Zoning Commission. 

Saris Stretch Rack video

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At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Wheel Alignment Equipment said...

I finally was able to appreciate historic architecture like the Madison and St. James hotels. Denver has done an incredible job, of protecting its inventory of historic buildings, particularly those in the downtown area.

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's also a new ridematching website that helps people coordinate realtime carpools. Alongside other transit modes like mass transit and biking, hopefully this will help reduce traffic and parking congestion:

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

spam warnings!

I think this is partly the result of parking mimimums being hijacked by the shoupian dark wizards.

And of course, the real agenda is to make multi-story buildling cheaper by not building a garage.

That is a great agenda is a place like LA. Terrible idea in a downtown, and probably even bad in most parts of DC because you don't have the space street parking capacity.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous H Street LL said...

Given that we are facing a housing shortage crisis and the number of cars in DC has stayed constant while population has significantly increased, why is making it cheaper to build multistory housing a negative?

At 1:41 AM, Blogger alai said...

Frankly, I don't see this as worth getting worked up about. Given that bicycle parking takes an almost trivial amount of space relative to car parking, it is relatively easy to increase at a later date, whether in the building, on the sidewalk, or on the street, and can be done if demand warrants.

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