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Nashville Parking Debate. Crisis or Not?


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Last week I posted the NBJ article on the parking crisis according to Tom Frye of CBRE. This week out fellow forum member Cliff posted this on his Facebook page:




For reference again:





Many cities in Western Europe, ones that have mass transit, are eliminating parking spaces. The debate continues. Do we continue to build surface parking lots and garages, or do we build 10,000+ residential units downtown and rid the CBD of cars altogether?


This is something we as a city are going to have to deal with in the future.





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Well, I would start by saying (as I've said before) that Nashville is FAR from a parking "crisis". It's becoming a crisis in the minds of some people because it is getting more difficult (in the CBD) to get a parking spot within 100' of your destination. If it's a "crisis" for you to have to walk a block, then perhaps we are entering one. That being said, we should evaluate other cities. I'm sure others on this board can speak for other places such as Chicago and NY, but I'll stick to the city that I am the most familiar with, San Francisco. In SF, parking has reached "crisis" mode. Even though parking "zones" are established for neighborhood residents, apartment rentals do not typically include a parking pass. A spot can cost you an extra $300-$1000/month. Parking lots consist of car elevators that make it difficult to come and go on a whim. Meters are very expensive and any free spots (if you can find one) are very confusing on their rules and often not near many destinations. Parking violations can cost hundreds of dollars.

Nashville is car-centric. People expect to be able to turn directly where they need to (via the center turn lane) and the idea of having to circle the block is considered an annoyance (another issue that I find perplexing). Drivers expect to be able to park (for free) within direct sight of the door they plan to enter. Surface parking is ample in most places, but where it is not, it costs a reasonable fee (unless you are downtown on event night).

To be fair, the redevelopment of downtown/midtown is happening fast. Where there were once ample, cheap, surface lots there is now development. I don't have figures, but I'm guessing that structured parking has not been built to a 1-to-1 replacement, and often it's reserved for users of that particular structure. Nashville is moving ahead with the garage at 5th&Church, which is good for this particular issue. Garages are great for the long term user, but a hassle for the in-then-out user. Street parking is needed for these types of users. I think the city is taking a step backwards by turning many of the CBD one way streets into two way. It sometimes eliminates parking on one side, but when it doesn't, it makes street parking more difficult. Also, if we eliminated the center turn lane, and people need to circle a block to get to the left side of the street A.) they would likely pass quite a few spaces in the process B.) there would be more room for street parking C.) people would be more willing to grab the first spot they see, thus eliminating the "crowding effect" by storefronts. Not to mention eliminating dangerous cross traffic turns, which we all know are very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Also, the free parking for state workers is possibly a burden on this system, but I won't dive into that issue, because I know that it isn't always the most glamorous parking situation for them (and I don't know much about it).

It all boils down to one thing though. We need mass transit in a serious way. How many car errands could be eliminated if we had a comprehensive, intuitive transit system? I would dare to say quite a few. I know from my experience that people in many other cities (sf, chi, ny) often take transit when going "into the city" specifically to avoid the hassle and cost of parking. Often, an argument about transit (for or against) is about how many people will give up their cars on a daily basis. But rarely do people consider how many occasional users there will be. Even if I only use transit once a week, if a majority does this, then there is a sizable customer base.

Back to parking, my personal experience with parking in Nashville is still a breeze. I always find a free parking spot (even on busy event nights) within about 3-4 blocks of my destination. Sure, that's 3-4 blocks that I have to walk, but A). It's good for you and enjoyable B.) it's no different that parking at Walmart, walking to the back of the store and then back to your car.

Personally, I just don't get it. I'll be annoyed when I get home at night and have to search for a spot for 15 minutes and park 5 blocks from my house. Until then, it's a non-issue for me.

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