$treet parking

The necessary corollary to Don Shoup’s Parking Benefit District is such a district that works where there’s already metered parking and a BID/SSA in place: the “Parking Increment Finance” district.

How might this work for the new Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA ? (Assumptions below.) Currently, several blocks near “the crotch” at Milwaukee, North, and Damen are metered 8AM – 9PM, six days a week, at a piddling 25¢ per hour. (Valet services find willing customers at $9 + tip.) First of all, raise rates to 50¢ an hour; no one will even notice, and revenues will double — give that to the city in return for new meters, more meter maids (police presence!), whatever. Extend existing Monday-Saturday meters from 9PM to midnight (at a “premium,” but still cheap rate of $1 an hour) and add Sundays; result: just the _two blocks_ nearest “the crotch” would capture an astonishing $486,720. (Edit: That doesn’t even count the incremental revenue from extending meters from _one_ block out to two, which should be done posthaste.)

Adding one new mile of parking meters at a modest price of 50¢ an hour would yield $578,160 in a year. Combined, the two proposals would raise over $1 million a year from just the most congested area, dwarfing the $664,496 budget that the SSA will raise from taxing over six miles of streets.

To prevent spillover, permit parking would have to be extended to more side streets. Evening-only (6 PM – 6 AM) permitted parking should provide plenty of parking for residents and for daytime businesses like offices and lunchtime restaurants. The SSA could even broker the resale of side-street permits from residents to businesses, who could use them for employee parking — thus keeping drunk customers off side streets, and providing an incentive for car-free or car-light residents. All of this would require amending the ordinance, but the potential revenues make it well worthwhile — especially once PBD pilots (potentially in Hyde Park and Logan Square) get underway.

(Speaking of parking permits, why are they only $25 a year? That’s renting prime [by definition!] city land — in many of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, and to drivers, who are wealthier than the city average — for 27.7¢ per square foot per year, half a cent a week. By comparison, take Lake View, where parking spots go for $30 _per game_ [$660 just for three weeks of night games a year!] and retail rents right next to that permitted parking for $40 a foot, triple net; in Rogers Park, where Loyola charges $446 a year for resident parking; and in Hyde Park, where the University of Chicago rents spaces for $360+ a year. Off-street outdoor parking here in Bucktown goes for $75/month, or $900/year. Looks like parking rates could go up tenfold and still substantially undercut the market price.)

My lowball assumptions: 30 x 15′ parking spaces per 660′ block face plus three parking spaces available around each side street corner (on side street, but just off main streets and within SSA property boundaries), totaling 33 spaces per block face or 528 per mile. Each full day for new meters assumes six occupied hours (out of 16 metered hours, a mere 37.5% occupancy rate) at an average of 50¢ per hour, or $1,095 a year. For increment on existing meters: assuming 50% occupancy, $1 per hour for Monday-Saturday night parking (of course, the higher rate could be charged at 6PM, not 9PM) and 50¢ per hour for Sunday, for an increment of $676 a year. This also assumes that spaces blocked for valets will also contribute to the fund at the usual rate. By comparison, in 2001 Old Town Pasadena raised $2,096 per meter; 18% went to collection overhead, including ubiquitous meter maids at all hours.

The sheer number of valet operations in the area makes consolidating their operations into satellite lots quite easy and lucrative. Several big box stores at the fringes (K Mart, Aldi, Kohl’s) and some church facilities (St. Mary’s, Holy Family, St. Mary’s and St. Elizabeth’s hospitals) have enormous lots that are empty during the dinner rush, just perfect for storing valet-ed cars.

5 thoughts on “$treet parking

  1. […] One wrinkle: unlike Wicker Park & Bucktown, much of Logan Square currently has side street resident parking permits. I’d prefer to go without the insanely underpriced RPPs, but mitigation techniques (requiring permits only in the evenings, creating a mechanism to grant permits to businesses, creating one large permit district instead of many small ones) could make them palatable. 28th Sep 2006 | […]

  2. Pingback: Urban bites « west north

  3. Referenced this in a letter sent to the ward office today, regarding a parking zone realignment.


    I have several concerns with how permit parking has been implemented historically and offer several suggestions for reform below. I do understand that several of these suggestions would require changing city ordinances, and are thus outside the scope of the parking-zone realignment that is currently under study; however, they speak to broader issues that need to be addressed to rationalize the parking situation citywide.

    1. There is no “right to parking,” particularly not in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. Asserting such a false “right” is patently unfair to those of us who do not clutter the streets with cars.

    I make no magical claim to stow a large box (e.g., a hot tub, or a container garden) on the public right-of-way for an indefinite period of time, at little or no cost — yet those who claim a “right to parking” do exactly that. Disabled individuals who cannot walk long distances should get individual permits. Lazy individuals who cannot be bothered to walk long distances should get on with their lives. Our public spaces (including our streets) are precious, and deserve to be treated with care, reverence, and fairness to all.

    2. Permits should cover several blocks, at minimum. There really is no valid justification for restricting permits to a single block; beyond creating an administrative headache, it serves no valid purpose and further shunts any “parking imbalance” onto neighboring streets.

    3. Permits should prioritize, but not exclude, non-residential users with valid reasons for being in the neighborhood. Bucktown, like all good urban neighborhoods, depends on a wide variety of people throughout the day — residents, sure, but also business owners, employees, contractors, and, yes, business customers. None of these people have any greater a right to the neighborhood’s public spaces than any other, although the residents might think otherwise.

    3a. Permit parking should not apply during the day. Nowhere on Bucktown’s side streets is there a daytime parking shortage, and restricting supply during these hours is punitive beyond reason. Evening-only (6 PM – 6 AM) permitted parking should provide plenty of parking for residents and for daytime businesses like offices and lunchtime restaurants, while restricting noise from evening/night crowds to the main streets.

    3b. Permits should be made available to non-residents; many cities explicitly allow this. Residential permit parking districts in Boulder, Colorado allow non-permitted cars two hours of free parking during the workday, and sell parking permits to nearby businesses and to (just a few) commuters from anywhere — at 500% and 1800% of the resident price, respectively. The system still favors residents without excluding other users. San Francisco allows registered business owners, delivery trucks, and teachers to buy residential permits at cost; Portland allows businesses to buy permits for each full-time equivalent employee. Chicago’s $300 “citywide” parking permit is a good start, but arguably overpriced as evidenced by its slow uptake.

    Even in the evenings, I have seen many empty parking spaces in both permit and non-permit zones in Bucktown; these permits could be used for employee parking. This keeps rowdy patrons off the side streets while giving employees (particularly restaurant employees, who have recognizable safety concerns) convenient access to their jobs.

    4. Permits, even for residents, should be priced closer to market prices. Permit parking zones exist only in the city’s choicest neighborhoods, where real estate prices are highest — yet the city charges a mere $25 a year to “rent” 150 square feet: less than $0.17 per square foot per year. Meanwhile, renting space to house a person (not a car) in Bucktown costs about $10 per square foot per year — and to house a business, much more than that. Even outdoor, off-street parking spaces in Bucktown rent for $75-$150/month, or $900-$1,800 per year. Parking permit rates could go up _tenfold_ and _still_ undercut the market price for parking in the neighborhood.

    One city that prices permits in relation to market rates is Miami Beach, where a one-year street parking permit costs anywhere from $32 to $213, depending on the demand for parking in that area.

    5. Use the right policy tool for the job. If, for instance, off-site valet parking is a problem, then work with businesses and with major neighborhood stakeholders (including the SSA) to identify solutions — like evening rental of off-street parking lots (e.g., at churches and hospitals) that are mostly used during the day. Parking is not only a difficult political subject, but it is an integral part of our transportation system that must be managed with care to avoid unintended consequences.

    If parking supply really is a problem in the neighborhood, then the previous alderman had a reasonable idea (one of his very few): angled parking works pretty well on some of Bucktown’s wider streets. “Back-in” angle parking, as implemented alongside St. Mary’s church, is also statistically safer than even parallel parking.

    6. Revenues from the sale or rental of public spaces should benefit the public at large. Just as park rental fees pay to maintain and improve our parks, street parking rental fees should pay to maintain and improve our streets.

    Thank you for allowing me to comment on this issue. I urge your office to consider the broader needs of the neighborhood when allocating public spaces like street parking.

  4. A letter to the Chicago Journal, written today, in response to this article.

    The last thing that the intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen needs is yet more auto congestion — and that is exactly what these developers are promising as some sort of boon to the neighborhood. Already, it takes several light cycles for cars or buses to clear the intersection, and already too many pedestrians and bicyclists have been injured or killed in crashes there. Adding even a few cars could lead to complete gridlock right at the heart of our neighborhood, and that (more than a perceived “lack of parking”) will hurt business.

    The true “parking problem” that exists is not parking supply, but parking availability. Over 3,600 parking spaces exist on Wicker Park & Bucktown’s commercial streets, one-third of it on street and two-thirds off-street. That’s enough parking to fill the 65-story, 961-foot tall skyscraper at 311 S. Wacker, or a parking lot nearly covering the Lincoln Park Zoo. That is truly enough parking to fulfill demand, but it needs to be more effectively used. Higher parking meter rates will help with this, by getting employees and commuters out of metered parking spaces, but more needs to be done to share off-street parking lots. If new parking is to be built (and therefore if more cars are to be added), the logical place for it is at the neighborhood’s edges, where roads like Ashland and Western can handle more traffic.

    The world’s most successful shopping streets, whether in Copenhagen, Curitiba, or Chicago, are uniformly great places to walk but awful places to drive and park. After all, it’s pedestrians, not cars, that spend money; retailers and restaurants flock to Milwaukee, North, and Damen because it offers foot traffic that’s unmatched outside downtown, not because of its car traffic. As Florent Morellet, a successful restaurateur and pioneer in NYC’s Meatpacking District, wrote in a recent letter to his neighborhood newspaper, “my former restaurant… did very well when people could park. It did better when people couldn’t park. And when traffic came to a standstill because of the nightlife, it was packed… If you make [the city] attractive to people — i.e. pedestrians — they will find their way and come en masse. Businesses will flourish.”

    Wicker Park & Bucktown deserve development that actually improves our neighborhood, that helps to makes our streets and sidewalks great places for people. (Ever notice how there are no parking garages in the middle of the Loop or along North Michigan Avenue? That’s intentional.) Our neighborhood doesn’t need development that will do nothing to “solve” the neighborhood’s needs, while further degrading already-awful traffic and road safety. Instead, Wicker Park & Bucktown deserve development that actually improves the neighborhood over the long run, making it a greater place to live and do business. I applaud Alderman Waguespack for understanding this, and call upon Messrs. Goldman and Karbowski to rethink their shortsighted plans.

  5. Pingback: Food trucks, elaborated « west north

Comments are closed.