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Parking problem downtown - too much of it? Not enough?


GRDadof3

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I've just been informed that my 5.4 Million square feet of parking downtown is too low. Once you factor in aisles and turning radii for parking lots, it's actually closer to 300 sq ft per parking space, or 9,000,000 square feet for 30,000 cars, or 206 acres.

Even if you took 1/2 of that number (conservatively), which would be 100 acres, and instead built infill on them it would be astounding.

If you set aside 30% of your 100 acres for greenspace/common area, you could build:

100 buildings, each with 30,000 square feet each floor, virtually as high as you wanted

A project 3x the size of the RiverGrand idea

For arguments' sake, if we average 15 stories, you'd add 45 Million square feet of space to downtown, 8x the current office space downtown

Dude.

APK, the ideas we are working on would be that as each light rail segment was added, the city would sell off a certain number of DASH lots and would cut parking requirements on new developments at the same percentage.

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Those are great graphics GRDad. I have always contended that the real parking problem is the space devoted to car strorage and not the lack of spaces. These maps prove that. You can not have an urban core with this many surface lots and this much space devoted to auto storage. The core will never form into anything meaningful if there are so many blank areas.

This is not a new problem. Car storage in DTGR has been a problem since the car was introduced. Look at old Sanborn maps and you will see nearly every vacant piece of land labeled auto storage. The problem has always been "solved" by building more. This is the same solution for congested roadways - make them wider, add a lane, or build a brand new south beltline. Congestion is not solved this way and parking will not be solved this way.

There is nothing wrong with building parking decks that are lined with mixed use buildings. But adding or maintaining surface lots or adding unlined parking decks should not be happening in the core.

The solution is exactly has GRDad and others have discussed. Transit. This will be the only way to build the real kind of core density that we need. It is the only way to maintain or create sustainability of the urban core. This can be accomplished with no real increase (or very little increase) in taxes. Reallocate the billions spent on road construction and build light rail - now. Not 10 years from now. The T in MDOT stands for transportation, NOT AUTO transportation and as such as long as MDOT continues to be biased in their funding, they are being negligent to their constituents.

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And no, I don't expect visitors to use the mass-transit so much. Maybe if their hotel is a near a station, but if we can get the regular commuters to use mass transit it would free up that much more parking for visitors.

If visitors stayed downtown (where we want them anyway, right?) they wouldn't even need a car to get from hotel->dinner->hotel at night.

Every time we fly anyone in for meetings they stay at the Mariott downtown. Comments I've received from our vendors range from complimentary (they all love the BOB) to critical (downtown GR is dead after 8pm on weeknights) but never mention lack of parking. It's infinitely easier to park in downtown GR than downtown anywhere else I've ever been (detroit, ann arbor, chicago, new york all have less parking than GR).

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Have you guys looked at forwarding any of this to the city or the transportation board? Or are there people in decision making positions that are aware and working on this?

FYI, zoning does not necessarily require that every building owner provide a car terminal. From another thread:

Zoning is C-3.

Required Automobile Parking:

...one space for each 1,000 square feet of gross floor area for all non-residential buildings and hotels, and one space per dwelling unit for all dwellings...

Exemptions: Off street parking shall not be required for any building constructed prior to January 1, 1998, nor for new buildings and cumulative additions to existing buildings with a gross floor area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less...

[don't have GR's specs memorized...]

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If visitors stayed downtown (where we want them anyway, right?) they wouldn't even need a car to get from hotel->dinner->hotel at night.

True, but they're probably still parking their car downtown at the hotel ramp. Unless you're office is also located downtown in which case maybe they would just take the airport shuttle or a cab and not even need a rental car. Also I'd bet a lot of business travelers don't stay down because it's a bit more expensive than one of the cheaper chain motels in the suburbs.

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You guys should check out the LRT system in Calgary, Alberta. There's a town that's doing it right. It's an amazing city by any standards (thanks to the oil prices), including when you consider its downtown compared to its population. But it's LRT system is really nice. Calgary just passed 1 million this past year and has a metro population about the same size as GR.

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The anecdote about out-of-towners not finding parking is pretty unbelievable. I'm not saying your customers didn't say that, but come on, you can't go 3 blocks downtown without finding a parking garage. Were they really not able to find a spot, or were they not able to find a free spot?

Anyway, what kind of host are you, not taking your customers out to eat on the company dime... ;)

Yeah, it probably was more the "I don't want to pay" thing. They were also from Dallas/Ft. Worth which when I was there seemed to be a HORRIBLE town...everybody drives everywhere and everything is so big/far (Texas....sheesh.) ;)

And yeah, I did feel bad about not givin' them the guided tour and dinner, but when you have hours of work/prep for the next day, your ambition is pretty low to entertain and then go back to work all night... Still should have, though. :unsure:

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I totally agree that transit is needed. I'm fully behind the idea.

I don't understand how people can say that they can't find a parking space downtown. I have lived in GR for about 7 years now and I have yet to park in a parking ramp and pay. I ALWAYS find a spot on the street. Yes, I sometimes have to walk a couple blocks, but so what!

Don't forget about the hour of free parking during lunch in the Monroe Center ramp!!

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Those are great graphics GRDad. I have always contended that the real parking problem is the space devoted to car strorage and not the lack of spaces. These maps prove that. You can not have an urban core with this many surface lots and this much space devoted to auto storage. The core will never form into anything meaningful if there are so many blank areas.

This is not a new problem. Car storage in DTGR has been a problem since the car was introduced. Look at old Sanborn maps and you will see nearly every vacant piece of land labeled auto storage. The problem has always been "solved" by building more. This is the same solution for congested roadways - make them wider, add a lane, or build a brand new south beltline. Congestion is not solved this way and parking will not be solved this way.

There is nothing wrong with building parking decks that are lined with mixed use buildings. But adding or maintaining surface lots or adding unlined parking decks should not be happening in the core.

The solution is exactly has GRDad and others have discussed. Transit. This will be the only way to build the real kind of core density that we need. It is the only way to maintain or create sustainability of the urban core. This can be accomplished with no real increase (or very little increase) in taxes. Reallocate the billions spent on road construction and build light rail - now. Not 10 years from now. The T in MDOT stands for transportation, NOT AUTO transportation and as such as long as MDOT continues to be biased in their funding, they are being negligent to their constituents.

Do you think a battle with MDOT is winnable? I'm not discounting the idea, but with kids, I try and pick the battles I know I have a good chance of winning. It would be nice if they did devote at least SOME of the transportation dollars to transit, but there will be a lot of critics in Michigan crying "fix the roads and bridges we have before you spend money on fancy toys like light rail". Especially since the great majority of Michiganians have never been exposed to mass transit, except for maybe watching the L trains along the highways going into Chicago.

I don't mean to throw in the towel on that angle. Maybe there is a way to get MDOT to mix it up a bit.

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Do you think a battle with MDOT is winnable? I'm not discounting the idea, but with kids, I try and pick the battles I know I have a good chance of winning. It would be nice if they did devote at least SOME of the transportation dollars to transit, but there will be a lot of critics in Michigan crying "fix the roads and bridges we have before you spend money on fancy toys like light rail". Especially since the great majority of Michiganians have never been exposed to mass transit, except for maybe watching the L trains along the highways going into Chicago.

I don't mean to throw in the towel on that angle. Maybe there is a way to get MDOT to mix it up a bit.

Here's a link to MDOT's Passenger Transportation section:

http://michigan.gov/mdot/0,1607,7-151-9623...3452---,00.html

[yes, they have a bicycle section too]

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You guys should check out the LRT system in Calgary, Alberta. There's a town that's doing it right. It's an amazing city by any standards (thanks to the oil prices), including when you consider its downtown compared to its population. But it's LRT system is really nice. Calgary just passed 1 million this past year and has a metro population about the same size as GR.

How big is GR?

I thought GR/Wyoming was ~600k and GR->Holland->Muskegon was about 1mil.

Neither of those seem to add up to a city of 1 mil also being the same as metro GR.

I could also be brain dead. :) So I'm only asking for clarification.

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True, but they're probably still parking their car downtown at the hotel ramp. Unless you're office is also located downtown in which case maybe they would just take the airport shuttle or a cab and not even need a rental car. Also I'd bet a lot of business travelers don't stay down because it's a bit more expensive than one of the cheaper chain motels in the suburbs.

This is entirely anecdotal, but when our vendors and contractors stay downtown, yes they park at the ramp. Then they drive to my office for meetings, and back to the ramp to park. Then they walk to the BOB (especially if it's their first visit) or San Chez (because if they ask me for a recommendation I'm sending them there) and eat dinner downtown.

I'm guessing you're right than many stay out in the burbs, but I'm also guessing that the downtown hotels do most of their occupancy on business travel in which case we have people downtown spending their mojo on a regular basis.

My original point was merely that parking's less of an issue if we get those travellers down there to begin with.

Granted....GR has room to improve. When I travel to Manhattan for business I've never rented a car (why would you?) and that's largely due to the great rail and bus systems that get you from LaGuardia to the city.

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Do you think a battle with MDOT is winnable? I'm not discounting the idea, but with kids, I try and pick the battles I know I have a good chance of winning. It would be nice if they did devote at least SOME of the transportation dollars to transit, but there will be a lot of critics in Michigan crying "fix the roads and bridges we have before you spend money on fancy toys like light rail". Especially since the great majority of Michiganians have never been exposed to mass transit, except for maybe watching the L trains along the highways going into Chicago.

I don't mean to throw in the towel on that angle. Maybe there is a way to get MDOT to mix it up a bit.

MDOT is constrained by Act 51 as to how much they can spend on transit. Act 51 is also know as the gas & weight tax which is the state fuel tax and vehicle registration fees. The state statute requires those funds to be spent on highways. The legislature has provided for a small amount of transit funding from Act 51 but the majority is required to be spent on roads. Note: unless you live in a city that makes a general fund contribution to their street fund, neither the County of Kent, your city, or your township contibute any signifcant funding to roads.

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Is a fight with MDOT winnable?

Recently we tried to get MDOT officials to buy into a tamer street section of a highway that went through a town. Most of what we were proposing was shot down. For instance if you want to put parking on the street, then their response is that this is not safe for drivers who might not be paying attention to these cars and the people getting in and out of them. It is all about the smooth, easy, movement of traffic AND limiting what a driver has to think about.

In Three Rivers the MDOT Context Sensitive Design department did a dog and pony show about how they were really really trying to make streets that were appropriate to downtowns. When the local business owners asked about diagonal parking at the street, it was shot down as not being one of their standard solutions.

There has been a ton of publicity about Context Sensitive Design of streets and at this point it is all lip service. There is a mindset that is institutionally ingrained, it will not change over night, but it must change or we will not make the kind of places that the majority of the populace desires (whether they know it or not).

This is similar to the mindset that says they (MDOT) can not spend very much on transit. Act 51, is just a legislative act. It can be changed, politically. Whether the desire to do so is there or not is the question. This is indeed a paramount issue that affects quality of life, livability of our community, public safety, health and welfare and of course a great number of special interests - many of whom are stacked against transit (or more appropriately, for more road building).

The desire to create viable transit in the form of some kind of light rail is going to be an absolute major implementation project and I can not see it happening without dollars from somewhere besides private funding and tax increases. Tax increases will help, but funding needs to happen from the state - and the transportation department is where it should come from.

Am I willing to pay more in taxes for transit funding? - yes, but certainly within reason. I am not however interested in paying more taxes for more road construction - particularly boondoggles like M-6. The money that was spent on that should have been sunk into transit. I have never driven on that highway and most likely never will. However, I would be interested in riding transit.

So to answer the original question, is it winnable? Probably not in the current system. Probably not coming at them head on. But pressuring legislators to step up and begin to prepare for the future is a method of going through the back door.

Just dissolve MDOT and reorder it with a new mission. Get rid of all these traffic engineers.

In regards to the viability of transit....what is going on with the closure of the main transit station in the afternoon? How can we have viable transit systems when we are shutting down the main terminal at peak times!?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm really embarrassed to post these and show our dirty underwear to the UP world, but I feel like I have to. These are the city-owned Areas 1 - 5 "commuter" lots South of downtown. There are many more just like this on the West side of downtown, that I'll try and post this week. Why is so much of downtown being devoted to storing cars all day, when it could be put to much better use as residential, commercial, retail projects (or parks and plazas)?

421092987_798c71bab4_o.jpg

421092997_5046963da8_b.jpg

http://www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us/index.pl?binobjid=3688

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There has been a ton of publicity about Context Sensitive Design of streets and at this point it is all lip service. There is a mindset that is institutionally ingrained, it will not change over night, but it must change or we will not make the kind of places that the majority of the populace desires (whether they know it or not).

This is similar to the mindset that says they (MDOT) can not spend very much on transit. Act 51, is just a legislative act. It can be changed, politically. Whether the desire to do so is there or not is the question. This is indeed a paramount issue that affects quality of life, livability of our community, public safety, health and welfare and of course a great number of special interests - many of whom are stacked against transit (or more appropriately, for more road building).

Just dissolve MDOT and reorder it with a new mission. Get rid of all these traffic engineers.

It's ok for a planner to determine what the populace "desires whether they know it or not" but not ok for traffic engineers to determine what is appropriate for a roadway?

As for Act 51, it was first made into law in 1951 and there have been very few major changes since in how the money is divided up between the DOT, Road Commissions and cities. I think you're really dreaming if you think the legislature could agree on changing the funding formula as well as how it is spent. (Motor vehicle fuel & registration tax spent on modes other than roads)

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Ahem, perhaps we can all come together and solve this ridiculous parking problem we have downtown (too much of it).

From the West Side

422288705_d195ca7b43_b.jpg

FULL SIZE

422288819_3e9486a2b8_b.jpg

FULL SIZE

422288874_f9c5082979_b.jpg

FULL SIZE

422288771_ca617bfd5b_b.jpg

FULL SIZE

422314785_be5db78875_b.jpg

to the East Side (St Mary's area)

422288810_627680fac5_b.jpg

FULL SIZE

Big format because this is a BIG problem. I can't believe how wasteful those lots look from above.

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I think that it is necessary for the two to work together in harmony because the intent of their positions are very different.

Planners and trained to always find the highest and best use each section property and to ensure that the intended use will take the health, safety, and general welfare of the public. This includes how each element of a design, including those beyond the building, interacts with the public.

Traffic engineers by training will determine what is the best way to move people from one place to another in the quickest, most convenient, and safest way possible.

Both are needed.

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It's not that there are too many parking spaces....only that economics of stacking them on top of each other in ramps doesn't work out.

If you took all those parking spots and stacked'em in ramps, you'd have a heckuva lot more space for buildings

We already have 1/3 of downtown being used as parking ramps, and yet we still keep building surface lots. In fact, I took these pictures from on top of one of the largest parking ramps in the city, (which for some dumb reason was set right in the middle of this parcel instead of at one end or the other :wacko: ) and yet it's still surrounded by a sea of parking. In addition, parking ramps are getting expensive. Above ground is in the $25,000 - $35,000/space range, and underground parking, which we'd all like to see more of, is getting to $45,000+/space. And they do nothing to add to the vibrancy of an area. They actually suck life out of an area (see Campau Avenue).

We have to get as many of these cars out of the center city (where land is worth $2 - $5 Million per acre) and put them on lots out in the much less expensive near suburban areas (where it's more like $100 - $200,000/acre, and much more plentiful). A mass transit system would go a long way to putting all this wasted land to good use.

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  • GRDadof3 changed the title to Parking problem downtown - too much of it? Not enough?

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