May
19

DTMP: Section Two – Parking and Moving

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[This is the second of several posts examining the proposed Downtown Master Plan (DTMP).  You can see a brief overview of the plan here.  Click here for the entire plan.  Click here for the appendices.  Click here for my post on Section One.  A public hearing on the DTMP will be held May 26th at the City Council meeting that night.]

picture-4I’ve got three favorite parking places downtown. One of them remains unmetered. Each requires an extra block of walking to city center. You all have your favorite spots as well, even the cyclists and the scooterati. Anecdotes suggest that some folks have a terrible time finding a place to park whenever they come downtown. Downtown business owners want it to be easy for people to get out of their cars and move all over the city.

The Downtown Master Plan (DTMP), utilizing an inventory of parking spaces at various hours, takes a look at how to get people downtown and how to keep them there. I’m in agreement with a lot of the points made in this section, but there is one area that we can do without.

As was true in the Arts and Culture portion of DTMP Section One, “meeting our own needs and following our own vision, the people of Asheville have garnered world-class attention. This has been the key to our success, and it’s part of what makes us unique.” Changing the culture of downtown to cater exclusively to tourists would be a mistake. The Tourism Development Authority’s Wayfinding system, which will cost $75,000 up front then over $50,000 per year to maintain, is a portion of the plan we could cut to save money without any negative impact on city residents. More about that after the jump.

A proposed traffic and parking management system in the DTMP has real potential to freeze the need to build more parking spaces/garages. As the city prepares to spend $900,000 to build a parking garage under a luxury hotel, it’s time to recognize that by shifting our strategy, we can save a lot of taxpayer money while reducing traffic. I’ll list the exciting parts of this plan after the jump.

picture-13picture-21picture-3

Pic One – Proposed Shuttle Routes.  Pic Two – Weekday Parking noon – 7pm.  Red lots are full.  The rest aren’t.  Pic Three – Weekend Parking 5pm – 11pm.  Red lots are full.  The rest aren’t.

Click the pics for larger.

- Study and implement a Downtown shuttle service.
- Implement Downtown elements of Asheville’s 2008 Comprehensive Bicycle Plan and Implement the recently-approved Bike Access Plan throughout Downtown. Coordinate the Bike Access Plan with the Urban Design Framework (Strategy 3).
- Add bike lanes to these Downtown streets: Asheland Avenue, Coxe Avenue, Hilliard Avenue, South Charlotte Street/Valley Street, and Southside Avenue. & Add bike lanes to the following streets: Biltmore Avenue (US 25), College Street, Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, McDowell Street, and Patton Avenue.
- Add shared lane markings to streets in or adjacent to Downtown.
- Install sturdy bike racks throughout Downtown
- Also install bike racks in covered areas of parking structures.
- Investigate a comprehensive pedestrian access plan— especially over/under I-240, from the River Arts District and along South Charlotte/Valley Street
- Examine future bikeway, pedestrian, and shuttle links to enhance Downtown access. These include West Asheville, Hillcrest, UNCA, WeCan, Montford, River Arts District, A-B Tech, Tunnel Road, Mission Health Systems, Biltmore Village.
- Require new development projects to improve sidewalks along their frontage to meet defined standards.
- Update parking rates and fee collection.
- Dedicate some public parking spaces for use by shared-car services.
- Negotiate off-peak use of private parking areas.
- (Long-term) Consider possible redevelopment of public parking structures—particularly the Rankin Street and Wall Street structures—for higher-value uses. Displaced parking could be accommodated through new below-grade parking, shared parking with the new uses, satellite parking, and/or enhanced transit services that reduce parking demand.

That’s a lot of good stuff. Kudos to the people who put their heads together to imagine the possibilities for downtown mobility.  An effective downtown shuttle will mobilize locals, businessfolk, and visitors.

Find Your WayTwo areas of concern in this section are:

- The “Wayfinding system” proposed by the Tourism Development Authority would be subsidized by city taxpayers. In searching for information about this system, I came across these notes in the minutes from a 2007 meeting of the Asheville City Council Planning and Economic Development Committee:

“The scope of the project includes, but is not limited to, gateways, vehicular design, pedestrian design, kiosks, orientation maps, and parking maps”
[...]
“Mr. Powers commented that the City has an opportunity to have tremendous return on the initial investment (City Council has allocated $75,000); that a Memorandum of Understanding for maintenance issues would probably consist of $50,000 – $75,000 on an annual basis, and that the Department of Public Works will include the operation and maintenance line items in the proposed 2008-2009 budget.”
[...]
“Discussion concluded with Mr. Bosier commenting that a successful wayfinding system didn’t necessarily get people to extend their length of stay, but makes people understand all that there is to do so they can make plans to return.

Spending this kind of money to make tourists comfortable is unnecessary and may well lessen their sense of discovery. It certainly won’t do diddly to improve the downtown experience for Ashevillains. Getting downtown businesses and area hotels on board with a proposed shuttle service is a very effective way for tourism commerce to support the rest of the downtown mobility strategy. Another part of DTMP Section Two sums it up nicely:

As an example, peak parking demand—especially during evenings and weekends—may be better addressed by offering alternatives to driving, hence parking. In turn, this would preclude the need to spend public funds on construction of new garages and free scarce land for more profitable mixed-use development.”

- I imagine this suggestion in the DTMP was included to assuage someone, because it’s out of step with the rest of the section:

Investigate possibilities for new parking at: a) the AT&T site, b) land between Rankin and North Lexington, c) joint ventures for additional parking in planned developments between Page and Haywood, and d) joint ventures with the Basilica.

If we’re changing course on downtown parking, then let’s commit to it fully rather than hedging our bets by pursuing the same kind of garage strategy that’s gotten us where we are.

Eighty-six the Wayfinding program and the bet hedging, and this part of the DTMP is 100% helpful in making Asheville a better place to live. I’m excited about the potential to create an Asheville that’s truly multimodal. This section takes us a long way towards that goal.

What do you think, Hooligans?


Categories : Local

Comments

  1. eemilla says:

    I love the idea of creating satellite parking sites and using shuttles; I agree that I do not generally have an issue finding downtown parking as long as I am willing to park somewhere other than right beside my destination (I do not work downtown though so my weekday trips aren’t terribly common). When my husband and I are tourists we try to avoid driving and having to add the cost of a rental car to our trip, and I would love to see Asheville embrace that mentality. It will help us locals by increasing the alternative transportation infrastructure and reducing drunk driving.

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  2. Doug Gibson says:

    It all sounds fantastic. I wonder what the pedestrian route from the arts district would look like. And hey, covered bike racks!

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  3. As in other parts of the proposed DTMP, there are little wedges tucked in here and there, which could be hammered by special interests later to open big cracks.

    The Wayfinding signs, like the banners that are strung here and there downtown (Lexington Ave. has them just now), will make the place look like a Tourist Trap instead of a lovely small town. I heard that one of the consultants who advocated for the Wayfinding signs drove through Asheville on I-240, TWICE, and claimed he was unable to find “downtown.”

    I wonder if he was confused by the cluster of tall buildings south of the Montford and Merrimon/Broadway exits?

    And I agree that the routine endorsement of more parking decks in the usual places is suspect. This tourist year should be revelatory, with national estimates of a 20 percent drop in tourism and international oil prices on the rise again. I have a strong hunch that the $900,000 deck will prove to have been a very bad idea.

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  4. Hamilton Cort says:

    “Negotiate off-peak use of private parking areas.”

    How about negotiate public use of the PUBLIC decks?

    It seems to me that a big chunck of the parking problem stems from the city renting reserved spaces in the public decks. The parking deck that was built to handle events at the Civic Center is always full during events! There should be a debate about whether our government should be building parking decks for commercial use and profit. It seems to me that if there is parking demand, a market for a privately built deck should be there.

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  5. In lots of cities when demand for parking is high enough the private sector steps in. We should carefully evaluate the city’s participation in parking decks. I suspect we’d be much better off if we sold them to private operators.

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